AFRICA: Universities do not meet industry needs

The African Commission has found a weak link between the demands of industry and what is provided by Africa's institutions of higher education, especially with regards to agriculture - the continent's dominant industry. In a report, the commission says Africa's universities are not geared to meet the needs of industry.

"The technical and vocational skills link in Africa suffers from weak links with job markets as well as shortage of qualified staff and ill-adapted programmes.

"Most of the training that is provided in sub-Saharan Africa is actually delivered through private providers in the informal sector. For their part African universities are not geared to meet the needs of industry," the report says.

"Essentially, the relationships between the demands of the private sector and what universities teach are too weak. Nowhere are these deficiencies more critical than in agriculture, Africa's dominant industry."

It added that graduates often cannot find employment, while small businesses lack staff with the education and skills needed to drive innovation.

The potential of African universities to promote positive change in society needs to be enhanced as universities have a particular responsibility for generating and diffusing knowledge into the economy and creating opportunities for innovation, the report states. For that to happen, adjustments in the way that African universities function are needed, the report says.

"The African Commission calls for the following policy actions on education. African countries and regional organisations, supported by development partners, should invest in the creation of better linkages between university education, research and the private sector in agricultural development and value chains.

"Such an investment should be based on national and regional strategies and funded through African organisations, with particular emphasis on promoting innovation and gender equality."