Look once, it would seem that the future of the African economy looks bright: business in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi is currently growing 20% every year, and the city is not alone in boasting such a claim. But look again, and things do not look so rosy. Africa is engaged in a critical battle between its rapid technological development, on the one hand, and a struggle to supply the skilled workers for such a growth, on the other, suggests a recent publication by Deloitte.
Whilst African governments, such as that in Kenya, are working hard to promote its country as capable of standing alongside the developed countries of the West on the economic podium, the current skills shortage across Africa poses severe limitations on the rate of investment and company development. A recent report by the McKinsey Global institute revealed that by 2020, there could be as many as 40 million too few high-skill workers and up to 95 million too many low-skill workers out in the job market. Though this may be a worldwide figure, it seems clear that this skills-job imbalance is nowhere more applicable than sub-Saharan Africa, where the under-25 account for three fifths of the unemployed sector, with unemployment rates averaging at 40% in the industrially developed Nairobi alone.
Where have these skilled workers gone to? It seems that since the 1960s, when decolonisation swept across Africa, an average 40% of all African professionals leave the continent for the West, in order to send money home to their families. Few gain professional experience in their native country before they leave. The resultant lack of skilled workers means that the government must instead invest in technical assistance and employee training in such sectors as health and education, rather than business investment. Without skilled workers, companies face stunted growth, leading to an increase in unemployment levels and worsening social conditions.
How do we redress the balance between this skills-job mismatch? African governments are increasingly finding that they must find ways to create awareness of job opportunities within Africa. Such endeavours come in the form of young entrepreneurs, who have taken note of this significant gap in the job market. For example, the recruitment platform M-Kazi, founded by Nancy Wang in Nairobi (reported by the BBC) allows those living in rural areas to keep updated with the latest job opportunities that they would not otherwise have access to. Users of M-Kazi (‘Kazi’ is the Swahili word for ‘work’) register their details through their mobile phones, and are texted details of new job opportunities. In a continent where internet access is limited, but where 70% of people use a mobile phone, it is only with this kind of specialised technological development that Africa may begin to redress the skills shortage that threatens its economic future.
Sources: BBC, Deloitte, McKinsey Global Institute, OECD Education Today
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