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ECA urges skills-based education for Africa’s technological advancement

by Haruna Gimba

By Muhammad Amaan

The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has reiterated the importance of skills-based education for Africa’s technological advancement.

Executive Secretary of ECA, Claver Gatete, in a statement issued by the commission, said this at the 2024 edition of the annual ECA Africa Business Forum in Addis-Ababa (ABF2024).

He emphasised the importance of shifting the focus of education to address its relevance and inclusivity in the digital age.

“Our conversations should not only be about how many are schooled, but rather how many are skilled.

“Africa should work towards becoming a global solutions powerhouse through concentrated efforts in science and technology.

“Investment in these fields is crucial for job creation, boosting productivity, and enhancing competitiveness.

“Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning are therefore, critical tools to addressing social and economic challenges on the continent,” he said.

Gatete acknowledged Africa’s significant growth in broadband access and the mobile money market’s valued at $836.5 billion.

He said that these achievements were however, weak compared with the vast potential available.

The executive director then raised crucial questions of bridging the digital skills gap for 650 million workers by 2030 and generating millions of jobs for Africa’s youth.

“The potential of Africa’s digital economy is enormous. However, realising this potential rests on closing critical gaps in digital skills, data generation, and utilisation, as well as the requisite infrastructure,” Gatete said.

Doron Avni, Google’s Vice President for Emerging Markets, underscored the transformative power of AI and its potential role in enabling sustainable and inclusive growth in Africa.

Avni called for inclusive AI education and government investment in this area, adding that “making AI and building AI for Africa by Africa is something Google strongly supports.”

Representing the Nigerian President at the forum, the Minister of State for Education, Yusuf Sununu, called for a radical approach to education.

“It is time to think outside the box if we must achieve the transformation we want. It is therefore, crucial to integrate technology into our educational systems,” he said.

The Zimbabwe’s Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development, Professor Amon Murwira also re-echoed the need for educational reform across Africa.

Murwira reiterated the need for Africa to move from a system that produced mere talkers to cultivating doers, particularly in technology, to ensure sustainable industrialisation and modernisation in Africa.

Also speaking, Botswana’s Minister of Communications, Knowledge and Technology, Thulaganyo Segokgo, said technology and innovation had the potential to significantly boost Africa’s transformation while ensuring an eco-friendly future for the continent.

He said that Botswana had made good strides in building digital infrastructure that left no one behind.

The ABF2024 was attended by hundreds of participants, including government and private sector representatives across Africa and beyond.

It served as a hotbed for discussions on the transformative power of technology and innovation for the continent’s future.

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