Africa Education System

Education is undergoing a remarkable transformation. While these transformation present unmistakable challenges to scholars on the continent, the promises are equally enormous!

If you’re a student in Africa today, you should be worried – very worried.

Why?

The robots are coming and they’re taking over the workplace!

Presently, factoryretail and repetitive manufacturing jobs are increasingly being automated to enhance efficiency. According to McKinsey, mortgage origination, paralegal work, accounting, and back-office transaction processing are categories of activities that increasingly can be done better and faster with machines. Further, automation will displace nearly 13 percent of South Africa’s current work activities by 2020. Ethiopia, one of Africa’s manufacturing hubs, is facing automation in several key employment sectors like agriculture and textiles. In Botswana, robot workers are increasingly diminishing the bargaining power of labor union. Accenture Nigeria predicts that within five years, more than half of consumers and enterprise clients will select products and services based on a company’s AI capacity, instead of its brand. On a global scale, the World Economic Forum predicts a net loss of five million jobs to AI by 2020.

These are interesting times for employers on the continent. With rapid demonetization in technology, a continuous redefinition of work and the preeminence of digital natives making once expensive products/services way cheaper — and sometimes free, employers across industries and regions are left with no option than to “innovate or die.” CNBC’s  October 8, 2018 publication chronicled 14 global brands that no longer need employees to have a college degree.

While these accelerated change and overwhelming complexities present unmistakable challenges to scholars on the continent, the promises are equally enormous. With that backdrop, this article seeks to help students and early career professionals prepare for the days ahead.

  • Create your own future with self-education

Selfeducation is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.Isaac Asimov, American writer, and professor

Nesa by makers on Unsplash

If you’re reading this, by now you’re aware of the fact that education systems around the world have not kept pace with the changing nature of work resulting in companies not being able to get access to skilled workers. Further, the ongoing dialogue in Davos has revealed that the growing disparities in incomes of families around the world is traceable to the education one gets. “Literacy is no longer about extracting knowledge but about constructing knowledge.” In short, knowledge has become the real form of money and power.

Although unemployment is still rife, digital tools like freelancing platforms and networking websites like LinkedIn are rewarding smart, talented professionals with jobs and business opportunities by the minute. And, these platforms are also helping us understand some of the highly prized skills for thriving in this age of automation.

Progressively, there has been a unanimous consensus on the fact that soft skills like communication, leadership and critical thinking are needed for navigating today’s world of work. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), “Soft skills—which are needed to effectively communicate, problem solve, collaborate and organize—are becoming more important for success as the workplace evolves socially and technologically.”

Hence, I strongly believe there needs to be a do-it-yourself approach to educating yourself today. If we could pay attention to choosing what we wear and what we eat, wouldn’t it make more sense to create our own direction? Doesn’t it make more sense to put your skills before you and manage them, instead of leaving it to chance?


Workers of the future will spend more time on activities that machines are less capable of, such as managing people, applying expertise, and communicating with others. The skills and capabilities required will also shift, requiring more social and emotional skills and more advanced cognitive capabilities, such as logical reasoning and creativity. – McKinsey & Company


Today, our challenge is not scarcity of information – we live in a world of super-abundant information – the real challenge is in excavating the right knowledge to help you remain relevant. Therefore, you can no longer wait to see what happens. Take advantage of the abundantly free and low-priced materials around us and prune your talents! Moreover, as the shelf-life of skills continues to shrink, if you’re not progressively improving your competencies, you will be left behind. According to LinkedIn, 90% of executives say that talent is the number one priority at their companies. Subscribe to get started with a personalized education on Readyforwork Career Coaching Program.

 

  • Learn how to learn new knowledge and skills

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. — Alvin Toffler,  American writer, futurist, and businessman

Image result for gif about learning

To begin with, these six guides shared by Michael Simmons can help you master any skill, and put you at a position of advantage in today’s digital economy:

  1. Identify valuable knowledge at the right time. With maturity and reshape of technology across industries, he says, there is often a deficit of people with the needed skills, which creates the potential for high compensation.
  2. Learn and master that knowledge quickly. Opportunity windows are not static, therefore, you have to spot the trends as quickly as possible.
  3. Communicate the value of your skills to others. Two people equally skilled at the same craft could earn very different salaries and fees. It all depends on their ability to sell and market themselves. Says Simmons, many people spend years mastering an underlying technical skill and almost no time mastering this multiplier skill.
  4. Convert knowledge into money and results. The value of information is the ability to use it and enrich your life.  Don’t just learn to have information, get value for your education by applying it in “finding and getting a better job, getting a raise, building a successful business, selling your knowledge as a consultant, and building your reputation by becoming a thought leader.”
  5. Learn how to financially invest in learning to get the highest return. “Each of us needs to find the right “portfolio” of books, online courses, and certificate/degree programs to help us meet our goals within our budget,” Simmons says. If knowledge equals capital, then it makes sense to apply financial intelligence to your education.
  6. Master the skill of learning how to learn. Simmons stressed that our learning rate determines how quickly we can compound information over time. “Consider someone who reads and retains one book a week versus someone who takes 10 days to read a book. Over the course of a year, a 30% difference compounds to one person reading 85 more books.”

In her article entitled The Protégé Effect, Annie Murphy Paul, the author of Origins, gave a brilliant account of how teaching what you learned is the best form of learning. “Students enlisted to tutor others… work harder to understand the material, recall it more accurately and apply it more effectively. In what scientists have dubbed “the protégé effect,” student teachers score higher on tests than pupils who are learning only for their own sake,” she wrote.

To quote Andreas Schleicher, Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills, OECD, “we used to learn to do the work, now learning IS the work.

  • Transcend your environment

With the rising digitization in today’s world and the ubiquity of the internet, ignorance is no longer acceptable. Tony Elumelu, Founder, The Tony Elumelu Foundation and Group Chairman, UBA Group

Tony Elumelu engages associates of the Nigeria Leadership Initiative (NLI) in an interactive session

When I was in college, I always told my colleagues that the competition we’d face in the job market is not from students in Ghana but those elsewhere like Europe, America and so on. I always thought that we now live in a global village and internet penetration has removed most of the barriers. Therefore, you can longer assume that all you see in your immediate environment is all. That is the reason I left Nigeria to come to Ghana for my college education.

In the last few months, several headhunters from around the world (especially, India) looking to fill different roles have reached out to me on LinkedIn. The internet has given talent professionals access to a tremendous pool of candidates, thereby shifting the resource pool from industry or location to a higher-quality global population.

If your college or workplace does not have that form of global perspective, you can transcend your environment. It’s your responsibility to immerse yourself in global conversations. Don’t limit yourself to your coursework or job description. Don’t be hemmed-in by society, location or nationality. Create your own reality, develop your voice and find your place in the world.

Here’s an idea: Make out time to take part in community events and programs. Be part of a cause that’s bigger than yourself. If you cannot find an organization that serves your purpose, can you form one?

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from; it doesn’t matter whether you’re 24 or 42, if you have the skills for the future of work and know how to market it, you’ll win! In a time when many people are complaining about not finding work, I know several others who have more jobs than they can handle.

As I write this, software developer training and outsourcing company, Andela, just announced a $100 million Series D round funding to further scale their program. If you asked me, what is education today? I’d say it’s an ability to take ownership of your aspirations and grow in confidence that yields success. I believe we’re in an “alternative education” era when education is no longer about degrees or accolades. It’s about developing the capacity to solve problems – and getting adequate consideration in that process. Education today is a reprogramming of the mind.

Stop complaining; no one is listening. Take control of your life. You’ve got this!

Get started with a personalized education on Readyforwork Career Coaching Program.


About the Author

Tom-Chris✨ #Readyforwork
Tom-Chris Emewulu is the President & Founder of SFAN. He is an education enthusiast, entrepreneurship and career coach, a consultant at Mastercard Foundation, Seedstars Ambassador for Ghana and an aspiring venture capitalist. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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If Africa’s children are educated and equipped with the skills to succeed in the twenty-first-century economy, the entire continent will prosper. But if they are denied a quality education, Africa’s economic progress will be slowed, stunted, or even thrown into reverse. – Strive Masiyiwa, Founder of Econet Wireless

NIGERIA – On October 25, I had the privilege of representing SFAN at the Tony Elumelu Foundation Forum 2018 where 5,000 entrepreneurs, business leaders and heads of states gathered to discuss various topics around economic development across Africa. I was opportune to be one of the select marketplace vendors that hosted the President of Ghana, His Excellency Nana Akufo-Addo and the Founder of Tony Elumelu Foundation, Mr. Tony Elumelu.

The meeting gave me the opportunity to share my thoughts on how to fix Ghana’s education system with both men. This article is trying to extend that conversation.

If you have followed the ongoing dialogue about the state of higher education in Africa, then you’re aware that there’s an urgent need for rethinking the entire framework of Africa’s education systems. The handwriting on the wall is crystal clear: by 2050, Africa will be home to a billion young people. The continent’s future – and perhaps that of the world – hinges on investments in human capital. Regrettably, as it stands, all sub-Saharan Africa countries perform worse than the global average of the human capital index.

While there has been an incremental economic growth on the continent, the stack reality is that majority of African students are not learning the skills that can make them competitive in the digital world. And if this trend continues, our future generation will be a lost cause.

The good news is: we have a window of opportunity to avert this catastrophe. Apart from drastically raising education financing from the current meager 10%  (which, thankfully, the education commission is taking a bold step to accomplish), there are three important areas that need immediate attention for fixing the state of higher education in Africa.

To be perfectly clear, this agenda will need bold thinking as well as a refusal to settle for things as they are. Fixing higher education in Africa will equally need multi-stakeholder collaboration.

Over the past five years, a greater part of our work at SFAN has centered on creating programs and events that bring together stakeholders from business, academia, government, media, and civil society. The goal: to spur new pathways for equipping young people with skills that can help them thrive in the  21st-century economy. Our extensive research and survey of the root causes of youth unemployment in Africa show:

  • a mismatch of skills between labor market need and education
  • insufficient employment opportunities, and
  • lack of access to support services and available opportunities.

This important disconnect inspired us to set up Readyforwork Career Coaching Program; empowering the youth to take ownership of their career aspirations and grow in confidence that yields success. With a ready workforce, employers on the African continent need a upskilled talent to take advantage of the economic boom.

Obviously, the future of work will not be about college degrees but about job skills. Quite frankly, I think the current education system has outlived its purpose. CNBC recently compiled a list of top employers that no longer require employees to have a college degree. Simply put, we are moving into an era of an alternative education system.

It is not my intention to propagate a conspiracy theory but I know where the current education framework came from. Over one hundred years ago, factory owners that didn’t have enough compliant factory workers invented the system. Therefore, it made sense to arrange kids in rows, tell them what to think and make them compete for grades. And it worked excellently for over 100 years before technology disrupted the work environment.

A hundred years later, automation and robots have taken over many factory jobs, and collaboration has become more important than competition. The problem is: many schools in Africa are still stuck in the archaic mode of teaching and their curriculum has not kept pace with the changing nature of work.

Yet, programs like SFAN’s Readyforwork are rethinking the process by giving every gift an equal chance through personalized education. We are leveraging data to curate contents that tailored to the needs of learners instead of a one-size-fits-all system.

Nevertheless, if we trained every job seeker, there are not enough jobs to absorb them.

The numbers clearly show that while about 10 to 12 million youth enter the workforce each year, only 3.1 million jobs are created.

Consequently, there’s a pressing need to unlock entrepreneurial potentials of young people for job creation. Governments and development agencies are progressively acknowledging the fact that “Africa’s young people could enrich not only this continent but the world economy and society at large.”

Like I told President Akufo-Addo, this is why initiatives like the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Program is of vital importance!

Our coaching program also serves the need of helping young people acquire the entrepreneurial mindset and real-world exposure that help them to take ownership of their aspirations for success.

Now comes the third aspect of fixing higher education in Africa: giving young people access to mentors and opportunities to engage the real world. Experts have said that mentorship is one of the smartest investments you can make in your business or career. Mentorship helps young people gain direction and navigate the digital world.

For the last several years, I have worked with different companies in finding the top ten percent of entry-level job seekers. One significant thing I’ve noticed is that many job seekers lack job awareness skills. A good mentorship program helps learners to gain job awareness and exposure to the world of work.

In conclusion, the economic case for investing in Africa’s human capital is that it is the continent’s most important resource and the surest way of ending poverty on the continent.

I agree with Strive Masiyiwa, “if Africa’s children are educated and equipped with the skills to succeed in the twenty-first-century economy, the entire continent will prosper. But if they are denied a quality education, Africa’s economic progress will be slowed, stunted, or even thrown into reverse.”

Clearly, countries like Finland and Singapore are quite ahead of the curve by “giving more time to exercises that will involve a synthesis of knowledge from various subject areas.”

This is the moment for Africa’s youth!

Donate to our crowdfunding campaign to help us scale our career coaching program through a talent accelerator that will unlock the employment and entrepreneurship potentials of indigent youth at zero upfront cost.


About the Author

Tom-Chris✨ #Readyforwork
Tom-Chris Emewulu is the President & Founder of SFAN. He is an education enthusiast, entrepreneurship and career coach, a consultant at Mastercard Foundation, Seedstars Ambassador for Ghana and an aspiring venture capitalist. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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