29 May 2013

Courses That Suits Labour Market Will Bridge Skills Gap, Say Experts

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The existing talent gap in management in Africa is a result of mismatch between schools and labour market needs, said education experts during a session entitled "Closing the talent gap" at the African Development Bank's Annual Meetings in Marrakech on Tuesday.

The discussion was dedicated to charting the way forward on how African economies can bridge the skills gap was held at the sidelines of the 48th AfDB meetings, which kicked off on Monday.

Rebecca Harrison, program director Africa Management Initiative (AMI), told participants that African economies need good managers and this will come from strong initiatives by the governments to equip young people with talents needed in the labour market.

"Good managers underpin development," she added.

Although Africans are getting richer, more educated and connected on social networks, they are often ill-equipped for work and companies struggle to find talent, Harrison said. "A lack of middle management capacity is the single biggest constraint to Africa's growth because skills shortage hinders investment," she noted.

At the forum the participants expressed the desire to harness efforts and look for possible ways to boost the skills needed in labour market among young Africans.

Guy Pfeffermann, founder and chief executive officer of Global Business Schools Network, said: "There is a need for innovative, scalable, practical and accessible solutions to address the challenges of the talent gap among the young people in Africa."

He noted that good managers are very critical when it comes to driving Africa forward because they are the ones that build shrewd private firms that create jobs and ensure that development goals are achieved.

Pfeffermann stated that, for the African nations to be competitive globally, managerial skills are determining forces.

AMI estimates that Africa's formal labour force of 111 million includes approximately 11 million managers.

"To entrench the practice of good management, we need to ensure that at least one in 10 of them - over 1 million managers - are fully equipped with the knowledge needed to drive the continent's next phase of development," said Harrison.

According to employers, we are far from reaching this goal. Only a minority of African managers, particularly those at mid and lower levels, are well-trained.

Harrison noted that most local business schools are low-quality, overly academic and out of step with the requirements of fast-growing African economies.

"We urgently need high-quality and affordable institutions and programs at this level, which can also reach rural and underserved urban areas."

According to Bakary S. Kone, Manager of the External Affairs and Partnerships Department at the African Capacity Building Foundation, leveraging technology and peer learning will help to build a community of effective managers and bridge the gap between education and employability skills.

"African economies should consider education relevant to the job market more important than other targets of the continent's growth," he said.

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