Flagship youth initiative aims to enhance quality education

The European Union-funded flagship Youth Mobility for Africa initiative is delivering numerous opportunities for the higher education sector in Africa as it seeks to foster inclusive academic and labour market mobility.

The initiative is in the Global Gateway Investment Package launched at last year’s European Union-African Union (EU-AU) Summit where leaders agreed to build on existing Africa-Europe cooperation in higher education and skills development, and strengthen it further.

In an interview with University World News, European Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen said the Youth Mobility for Africa flagship addresses the needs of actors in the ‘knowledge triangle’ and the initiative is fully aligned with the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the jointly developed AU-EU Innovation Agenda.

She said the programme fosters the quality and attractiveness of African higher education systems and seeks to empower young people, boosting their employability through adequate and modern skills-building.

Opportunities for mobility

The flagship initiative brings together a number of ongoing and new EU-supported initiatives, increasing their cohesiveness and impact.

“Erasmus+ comes under it, and so does the Intra-Africa Academic Mobility Scheme; likewise for the initiative on the Harmonisation of African Higher Education Quality Assurance and Accreditation (HAQAA3), the programme in support of the African Continental Qualifications Framework (ACQF II), and the forthcoming Africa-Europe Youth Academy.

“Youth Mobility for Africa delivers numerous opportunities for higher education institutions and technical and vocational education and training institutions, and for actors working on quality assurance, accreditation and qualifications.

“Above all, it delivers opportunities for mobility – for young people, students, researchers, trainees, and staff – including through exchanges, scholarships, and cooperation projects,” she said.

The EU programme Erasmus+ offers mobility and cooperation opportunities in the fields of education, training, and youth, while the Intra-Africa Academic Mobility Scheme encourages international learning mobility across the African continent, in particular.

The programme provides support for consortia of African higher education institutions and scholarship opportunities for African trainees, students and staff. Moreover, support to the development of the African Continental Qualifications Framework aims to enhance the comparability, quality and recognition of qualifications and support lifelong learning.

Urpilainen said the Youth Mobility flagship will contribute to tackling inequalities, as it will engage with young people, connect them and empower them with the skills and tools they need to thrive.

“It will increase learning mobility opportunities for Africans in collaboration with Europe, strengthen harmonisation mechanisms related to higher education and skills development in Africa, and increase cooperation in priority areas.

“In addition, I expect Youth Mobility for Africa to encourage closer coordination and cooperation in the field of higher education between the European Union and the African Union and our member states and stakeholders,” she added.

The commissioner also highlighted how HAQAA, which also falls under the Youth Mobility for Africa flagship, contributes to continental integration of higher education by improving the quality and harmonisation of African higher education.

The third phase of the initiative (HAQAA3), which has now started, focuses on four major objectives: improving the quality of higher education; establishing the Pan-African Quality Assurance and Accreditation Agency, or PAQAA; developing an African Credit Transfer Scheme, or ACTS, and building a culture of data-gathering, utilisation and preservation for public-based policies on the African higher education system.

Urpilainen has made education her personal priority, with more than 10% of all EU International Partnerships funding in the 2021-27 financial cycle going towards improving the quality of and access to education.

According to her, investing in quality education is essential to accelerating sustainable development. “Education is a crucial component of what we call the enabling environment – creating an attractive business climate and facilitating investments requires a skilled workforce, know-how and functioning education systems,” she added.