Dar es Salaam. From 04 to 08 April 2022, 35 delegates from Zambia, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Ghana, and The United Republic of Tanzania convened in Zanzibar to participate in a capacity building seminar on skills anticipation, under the Skills Initiative for Africa (SIFA) Programme.
Participants were introduced to the ILO Skills for Trade and Economic Diversification (STED) approach, which is a sector-based methodology for identifying current and future skill needs, or skills anticipation, for their respective countries. The methodology also aims to guide the formulation of skills development strategies that can enable countries to build more resilient, productive and competitive sectors in the context of global open markets.
The guest of honour, Hon. Mudrick Ramadhan Soragha, United Republic of Tanzania, Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar Minister, President's office Labour, Economic Affairs and Investment, said the training could not have come at a more opportune time:
"This multinational capacity building workshop on STED comes at a critical time, when the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the fourth industrial revolution present serious skills challenges for the African continent,” he said during the seminar opening speech.
Jealous Chirove, Employment specialist, on behalf of the Director of the ILO Country Office Dar es Salaam, Wellington Chibebe, reflected the sentiments of the Minister, Hon. Soragha, on the critical need for a multinational African response to the skills mismatch issue:
“Honourable Minister, SIFA Initiative seeks to contribute toward the African Union agenda for a more prosperous Africa whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African people.” He then stated that ILO’s skills anticipation approach could play a key role in aligning and strengthening the often highly fragmented skills development systems in Africa.
With over 12 millions of Africa’s young women and men excluded from the continent's growing economy, skills anticipation strategies will allow training institutions to provide skilled workers who are in demand in the labour market and avoid skills mismatches. Indeed, ILO’s research demonstrates the importance of demand-driven skills training to mitigate such challenges.
The delegates shared their respective countries' economic profile and how skills anticipation could help to strengthen training institutions and stimulate economic development. Dr. Denis Murekachiro, Director of Higher Education Programs in the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science, Innovation and Technology Development in Zimbabwe said:
“The ILO STED methodology is in line with Zimbabwe’s development plans to strengthening human capital development and heritage-based education 5.0. The implementation of STED in Zimbabwe will contribute to TVET policy development. By anticipating future skills needs, the curriculum will be developed or revised to meet the dictates of heritage-based education 5.0.”
Delegates from the Kingdom of Eswatini used the platform to reflect on the challenges and opportunities facing their country’s economy, which depends heavily on agriculture and forestry. According to Ms. Fikile Mdluli, Chief Inspector Tertiary at the Ministry of Education and Training in Eswatini, young people in Eswatini depend on full-time employment while the country’s private sector is not able to employ all graduates:
“Unfortunately, entrepreneurship and self-employment are not attractive to young people in Eswatini. Ideally, we would be able to use the STED methodology to identify sectors with the best employment and self-employment creation potential for young people,” she said and added: “This is a ground-breaking programme that will benefit African youth, as this approach aims at developing tradable skills for future success in international trade.”
George Owusu-Ansah Amoah, Ghana’s Deputy Director, Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations echoed Ms. Mdluli’s concern, stating that Ghana’s private sector was not the main avenue for youth employment in his country where young people rely on government employment or self-employment.
"The STED will prove useful in realizing our government's desire to achieve sustainable development, reduce the unemployment rate and trade deficits and move the country beyond aid dependency," Mr. Amoah said.
Indeed, all delegates were optimistic for a brighter future where African youth take charge of ICTs, technology, manufacturing and production to find local solutions to local needs.
Many countries are experiencing a gap between the skills needed in the labour market and those offered by the workforce, including African countries. According to an ILO report, Anticipating and matching skills and job, 2020 saw a global shortage of 40 million workers with higher education with developing countries experiencing a shortfall of 45 million workers with secondary education and vocational training for jobs in manufacturing and services.
The ILO promotes skills anticipation through the STED approach to link skills development to increased employment and enhanced economic growth. This is done through targeted skills development policies aimed at matching skills supply with skills demand in labour market.
Mr. Chirove concluded saying: “The STED methodology operates on the two key principles, which are first, a correctly trained workforce that is part of the enabling environment for trade growth as skills development removes constraints on business’ capability to upgrade technology, innovate, and compete in new markets. This is especially true for smaller businesses down the value chain. Secondly, for the sake of social justice and economic efficiency, more trade must result in more employment opportunities and better jobs for citizens.” He ended by thanking the German Government and European Union for funding the SIFA Initiative.
More on the STED tool
The STED tool was developed to provide practical guidance in the development of skills policies, as an integral part of the strategies to develop trade exposed sectors. It focuses on sectors with the potential to act as key drivers of national competitiveness by contributing to a diversified economic structure. The STED tool draws on the experience of four piloted countries, including Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Ukraine.