Four-year strategy for human resource development

The African Development Bank has approved a four-year ‘Human Capital Strategy’ for 2014-18 that identifies education, skills development, science, technology, innovation and youth employment as areas of urgent priority.

The Human Capital Strategy, the bank’s first, was approved by its board of executive directors on 28 May in the Tunisian capital Tunis.

It says the mixed effects of limited access to quality education, technology and innovation were "strong warning signals to sustaining Africa’s growth and entry into higher value added areas of production and competitiveness".

"Failure to tackle such formidable backlogs will deprive a whole generation of opportunities to develop their potential, escape poverty and support the continent’s trajectory toward inclusive growth and economic transformation."

The vision of the Human Capital Strategy, or HCS, is “to harness the potential of one billion Africans by building skills and promoting technologies for better jobs, equal opportunities and workforce competitiveness”.

Human Capital Strategy

The strategy’s main areas of focus are skills and technology. It underscores short-, medium- and long-term adaptable and sustainable solutions to youth unemployment and economic productivity.

The African Development Bank, or AfDB, will support investments in skills and technology development in member countries through knowledge work, policy dialogue and lending operations.

Interventions will address the daunting challenge of joblessness and under-employment among youth and women by tackling labour market skills mismatches and promoting social entrepreneurship and economic policies that foster job creation.

The bank proposes a New Education Model for Africa, with a radical shift from a ‘bricks and mortar’ approach to a model that supports critical thinking, the application of cutting-edge education technologies, and public-private partnerships.

The model will tap new opportunities provided by the private sector and ICTs to develop e-education and adaptive learning to equip African youth with flexible skills needed for tomorrow’s job market.

The AfDB will step up its support for innovative teaching methods based on ICTs including e-learning, virtual universities, and regional research and exchange platforms.

It will partner with science academies to support programmes for women scientists, including through fellowships for women who can serve as mentors to future female leaders.

The strategy will also focus on building critical skills in several economic sectors including infrastructure and natural resource management, to enhance competiveness.

Bank interventions will include upgrading equipment in institutions for the training of engineers and technicians, and leveraging partnerships with the private sector to improve internships and apprenticeships.

Skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics will be scaled up, and regional networks built to foster opportunities for development and knowledge sharing across borders.

Mentorship programmes will be supported, using experts in the diaspora, and the bank will facilitate African networks of excellence to promote exchange of best practices and the development of skills in short supply.

Efforts will be made to boost ongoing partnerships including the Bank’s collaboration with the United Nations University and the Pan African University to promote science and technology education and the Joint Youth Employment Initiative for Africa for job creation.

Experts' views

Juma Shabani, former director of development, coordination and monitoring of UNESCO programmes with special focus on Africa, commended the bank for the strategy.

It would, Shabani told University World News, “help African countries to carry out major and comprehensive reform of their higher education institutions in order to enable them to make a significant and concrete contribution to poverty reduction and growth”.

The strategy confirmed that higher education should be given high priority in the post-2015 global development agenda, Shabani added. To ensure its success, an implementation steering team should be set up composed of African experts with proven expertise and experience in the focus areas of the strategy.

Calestous Juma, co-chair of the African Union's High-Level Panel on Science, Technology and Innovation and director of the science, technology and globalisation project at Harvard University, told University World News:

"As much of the challenge in Africa is the existence of higher education policies that do not reflect the needs of the economy, a major task for the African Development Bank will have to include working with African governments to rethink the role of universities in light of the pressure to pursue more inclusive and sustainable development strategies.”