Despite the recent economic slowdown, the majority of African countries continue to experience economic growth, rising trade and increasing inflows of foreign investment. Peace, political stability and good governance are also on the rise. Yet a closer examination offers a sobering reminder that growth alone does not guarantee equitable development.
Africa is, demographically, a young continent. It is experiencing rapid population growth, along with a slow decline in fertility. The continent’s youth population (ages 15–35) is expected to double, to over 830 million by 2050. This new generation has the ingenuity and energy to translate growth into shared prosperity. Currently, however, young people remain on the margins of the formal economy; most work in temporary and vulnerable jobs and many are under- or unemployed. While the majority of youth are literate, they lack functional literacy and job-readiness skills (often referred to as soft or transferable skills). Improving the quality and relevance of education would reduce the skills deficit and mismatch in the job market. An estimated 11 million young people in the region will join the job market every year for the next decade. Secondary, vocational and tertiary institutions have a crucial role to play in preparing students for the workplace, particularly young women and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Even youth who have found jobs report that they are undereducated for them. Employers agree, noting that young employees lack technical skills and basic workplace skills such as communication, teamwork and problem solving.
This report stems from the Foundation’s work to find ways to bridge the gap between the skills students acquire in school and what employers demand. It is a synthesis of three case studies on approaches to scaling up transferable skills training in three African countries. Two of the three case studies profiled in this report were projects supported by The MasterCard Foundation. We hope the report will contribute to the broader dialogue, and inform stakeholders— other governments, development partners and implementers—on practical approaches to equipping young people with transferable skills and ensuring education systems are more relevant. We also hope to make a valuable contribution to the growing body of work that demonstrates how to take innovative and impactful programs to scale.