Africa must focus on education for inclusive growth

6 February 2020

African nations must put more emphasis on building skills to make economic growth more inclusive, says African Development Bank (AfDB) president Akinwumi Adesina. 

Adesina was speaking at the launch of the 2020 African Economic Outlook report in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, where he called on businesses and governments to focus on education to fuel growth.

According to the report economic growth in African was 3.4% in 2019 and is on course to reach to 3.9% in 2020 and 4.1% in 2021.

Last year investment expenditure rather than consumption accounted for over half of GDP growth in Africa, which will help sustain future growth and improve the productivity of its workforce.

East Africa was the continent’s fastest-growing region, with the average growth of countries estimated at 5% in 2019. It was followed by North Africa (4.1%), West Africa (3.7%) and Central Africa (3.2%).

Southern Africa’s growth slowed from 1.2% to 0.7%, due to devastation caused by cyclones Idai and Kenneth.

The report found the poorest communities on the continent were not seeing the benefits of growth. Inclusive growth – felt at all levels of society – occurred in just 18 of 48 countries. 

“Growth must be visible. Growth must be equitable. Growth must be felt in the lives of people,” Adesina added.

The lack of inclusive growth is because Africa lags behind other regions in terms of education and skills development, the report said. 

“Expanding the product space and diversifying the continent’s productive capacity requires improvements in basic skills of the workforce, including literacy and numeracy, and better trained, highly skilled managers to access new markets.”

The continent should then focus on building skills in information and communications technology, science, engineering, and mathematics. 

“Education and training programmes should be upgraded, adapted, and expanded to keep up with the technical and higher skills demanded for the jobs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” it said. 

Hanan Morsy, director of the macroeconomic policy, forecasting and research department at the AfDB, added: “Africa is blessed with resources, but its future lies in its people…education is the great equaliser. Only by developing our workforce will we make a dent in poverty, close the income gap between rich and poor, and adopt new technologies to create jobs in knowledge-intensive sectors.”

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