Dr Olubunmi Owoso was until 2018, the secretary-general of the Commonwealth Association of Technical Universities and Polytechnics in Africa (CAPA), a Pan-African organization whose mandate is supporting professional and skills development as well as promoting policy advocacy in favour of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in Africa.
Newspage: Until last year, you were the secretary-general of the Nairobi-based Commonwealth Association of Technical Universities and Polytechnics in Africa (CAPA). How important is CAPA to Africa’s development agenda?
Owoso: The Commonwealth Association of Technical Universities and Polytechnics in Africa (CAPA) is an initiative of the 7th Commonwealth Conference of Education Ministers, held on the 7th of March 1977 in Accra, Ghana. The Commonwealth ministers of education had realized the need for an association that would promote the development of a curriculum that would produce the required technical skills and manpower for the socio-economic development of its member countries.
Thus, CAPA was formally established in 1978 with a mandate to, among others, engage in advocacy for policies in favor of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in Africa. The oft-told story in various sectors of Africa’s economy is the inadequacy of technical skills and manpower required by employers of labor; with recent advancement in technology, the role of TVET cannot be overemphasized. Consequently, CAPA is critical in the development of TVET on the continent.
Newspage: What specific roles can Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) play in Africa’s development?
Owoso: The major development challenges in Africa are poverty, high unemployment rates, insecurity, terrorism, and now modern day slavery – young Africans illegally migrating to Europe in search of greener pastures and losing their lives in the process. All these point towards an abysmal level of hope among young people in Africa, whose huge population ought to have allowed them the opportunity to be a critical component of the economy yet, they remain largely unemployed.
Youths between the age of 18 and 24 constitute about 20% of the population of the entire African continent. Thus, if African youths are gainfully employed; poverty, high rates of unemployment, illegal migrations to Europe as well as crimes and insecurity will be drastically reduced.
Leveraging Technical and Vocational Education and Training institutions to impart the right technical skills among youths would help create employment and jobs; TVET can therefore play a critical role in Africa`s development. Thus, African countries must ensure the creation of policies in favor of TVET as well as ensure development efforts are focused on building the technical skills of young Africans for sustainable development.
Newspage: How big are the opportunities in TVET in terms of providing employment and jobs to African youths?
Owoso: A lot! Take any industrial sector in Africa, you will find many opportunities in it. For example, in agriculture, there`s a need to transform the sector from the use of traditional methods of farming to a modernized way of farming using technology. This technological leap definitely needs TVET. Moreover, most Africans are farmers, coupled with Africa`s competitive advantage in agricultural production due to favorable soil conditions, good climate and rainfall availability.
Thus, we need to employ TVET including the application of Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) to transform agriculture, produce value added products and create jobs and employment opportunities in various sectors of the economy. There are other innumerable TVET-related opportunities in various sectors of our economy including textile and automobiles industries – almost every sector of the economy today, requires TVET expertise to thrive.
Newspage: How can programmes such as the AU’s 1 Million by 2021 Initiative – which targets direct investments in millions of African youths across four key elements of Employment, Entrepreneurship, Education and Engagement (4Es) – help the Union achieve its continental TVET agenda?
Owoso: The AU`s 1 Million by 2021 Initiative was launched in April, this year; it is targeted at reaching 1 million youths across Africa with investments in four key areas of development namely: employment, entrepreneurship, education, and engagement. The Initiative is a powerful strategy by AU that aims to empower African youths with the requisite skills and knowledge to create jobs and alleviate poverty.
For instance, in the area of education, the AU Commission (AUC) believes it is necessary to increase access to knowledge of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Thus, the Initiative will promote STEM among African youths to attract them into the STEM fields and possibly, grant scholarships to those that demonstrate potentials to excel in these areas.
In entrepreneurship, the Initiative aims to provide training and mentorship to young African entrepreneurs. We have a good number of successful entrepreneurs including youth associations across African countries that could be assisted through mentoring services from renowned entrepreneurs, and not just motivating and encouraging them, but also coaching them on how to establish successful Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).
Newspage: How critical is the role of TVET in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and AU Agenda 2063 in Africa?
Owoso: There are 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) with 169 targets. One of the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 4 (Ensuring Quality Education) seeks to ensure that by 2030, the number of youths who have relevant skills – including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship – has increased substantially. Thus, TVET is central to the achievement of this goal.
Moreover, Sustainable Development Goal 9: “Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure” is directly linked to TVET. Industries create jobs and drive economic growth but also require the right technical skills and manpower to function. If you want to build roads, bridges, sustainable cities and other infrastructures [SDG11] you must need technical skills. Consequently, TVET is directly relevant to Goal 4 and Goal 9 – and achieving about 80% of the Sustainable Development Goals also requires hands-on skills acquired through TVET.
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