Economic growth through building community human capital

There are many reasons why education and training are important. One of them is that they represent a critical component of a community’s human capital and can help eliminate inequalities. Gaining ad-hoc skills leads to better employment opportunities, boosting creativity and entrepreneurship and contributing to a more sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

Human capital is a key feature of the economic system as education increases a community’s – and by extension a country’s – productivity.

National research and education networks (NRENs) and regional research and education networks (RRENs) actively provide online training and workshops to raise the capacities of their staff and that of the African community at large. The knowledge shared allows the beneficiaries to access a plethora of information from anywhere in the world.

Increasing access to education

One of the targets of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8 is to substantially reduce the proportion of young people who are not in employment, education or training. By executing their mission and increasing access to educational facilities and training opportunities, all research and education networks in the continent are a direct example of this target.

With access to affordable digitised educational infrastructures, these high capacities raise the human capital development in African countries, equip more people with tech-related skills and eventually foster job creation.

Examples of this are the ICT workshops and hackathons for young women organised by Eko-Konnect in Nigeria and the Women-In-WACREN programme in the wider West and Central African region.

These training courses have helped students gain essential skills for the job market.

Similarly, every year, the Ugandan NREN, RENU, runs the Industrial Training Programme for undergraduate students which exposes them to cross-functional operations and activities in the form of hands-on work experience.

At the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UbuntuNet Alliance provided online training to e-learning instructors and NREN engineers. Similarly, in 2021 ASREN ran a five-month-long workshop for NRENs’ applications and systems engineers in the Arab region to build and deploy a national federation and join eduGAIN.

Shaping public policies

Thanks to the relevance and urgency of their work as well as their 360-degree understanding of the ICT world, NRENs also help shape public policies that play an important role in the economic development of their countries, such as TENET’s regulatory submissions, on behalf of the South African university community, to various governmental authorities to provide advice for the improvement of existing national policies in the field of digital technologies, identity management and cloud infrastructure.

This goes to show why the world’s focus has shifted more and more towards prioritising human capital and education – it empowers people to create a more prosperous future and it is the most promising route towards sustainable and inclusive development.

Silvia Fiore is communications officer at GÉANT, the pan-European data network for the research and education community and is communications coordinator for the AfricaConnect3 Project where she works with her colleagues from the UbuntuNet Alliance, WACREN (West and Central African Research and Education Network) and ASREN (Arab States Research and Education Network) to promote the impact that African NRENs have on the wider research and education community. Visit the AfricaConnect3 SDGs Info Centre to learn more about how African research and education networks are contributing to the SDGs. This article was first published on the AfricaConnect3 website.