Can Higher Education Solve Africa’s Job Crisis?
Understanding graduate employability in Sub-Saharan Africa
Africa’s economic outlook is bright. Five of the world’s top ten countries in GDP growth are in the region, with foreign direct investment up, inflation slowed and remittances at record levels. Yet will that growth be sustained? And with what impact for its societies? A major challenge for the region is creating enough jobs for its growing population. A recent World Bank report estimates that as many as 11 million young people in Sub-Saharan Africa will be joining the job market every year for the next decade, and the risks associated with growing numbers of urban youth without meaningful occupation are high.
It is widely recognised that long-term economic growth can only be achieved through investment in a highly skilled workforce. In the context of the knowledge economy, higher education has become particularly critical in this regard. Following decades of relative neglect as development agencies focused their efforts on expanding primary education systems, there is now renewed acknowledgement of the key role that universities can play in economic and social development. The debates on the post-2015 agenda have been characterised by this renewed emphasis (though have stopped short of recommending a specific goal for higher education). As the high-level panel report states: ‘What matters is not just having technology, but understanding how to use it well and locally. This requires universities, technical colleges, public administration schools and well-trained, skilled workers in all countries.’
Yet despite the rapid expansion of higher education enrollment, there are serious concerns about the ability of Africa’s universities to produce the kinds of graduates who can drive the region forward.