Africa’s Future Depends on Improving Education
by Aliko Dangote-LAGOS – It is time for an entrepreneurial and knowledge revolution in Africa. Only a properly educated workforce and entrepreneurial class will have the skills and drive to thrive as new technologies change the nature of work, leisure, the environment, and society – and to tackle our continent’s most pressing challenges.
Many people in Africa and beyond share this view. When French President Emmanuel Macron visited Nigeria in July 2018, he offered a bold prediction: if Africa’s youngest entrepreneurs worked hard and innovated, he said, they would change their countries and transform the world.
Similarly, when Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg visited a Co-Creation Hub in Lagos in 2016, he was impressed by the “energy” of the country’s youthful innovators – the social entrepreneurs, tech companies, and investors who are collaborating to solve some of Nigeria’s toughest challenges.
But that energy can go only so far without education. Indeed, while Macron and Zuckerberg are right to be inspired by Africa’s youth, the entrepreneurial and knowledge revolution that is needed to ensure a prosperous future for the continent can happen only if there is also an education revolution. Simply put, we need to get all of Africa’s children in school, so that the next generation of entrepreneurs has the skills it needs to succeed.
Africa faces huge challenges in reforming its education sector. While access to education has expanded dramatically over the last 25 years, and more boys and girls are in classrooms than ever before, many young people are still not learning what they need to thrive now and in the future. If current trends continue, by 2050 some one-third of Africa’s one billion young people will lack basic proficiency in math, reading, and other subjects. Millions will be unemployable and unproductive.
Today’s educational shortcomings weaken Africa’s development capacity. According to the World Economic Forum, Africa needs another one million university-trained researchers to tackle its most pressing health, energy, and development challenges.
But educating those scientists and potential entrepreneurs is an uphill battle. Technology has transformed the modern workplace, but curricula, modes of learning and instruction, and teacher quality all continue to lag. Even good schools exhibit a gap between the skills students need – like critical thinking and problem solving – and what they are being taught. Unless such shortcomings are addressed, Africa’s future workforce will be unable to lead the type of change many are expecting.