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Africa must meet the challenge of the technology and skills deficit, says panelist

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"The future of Africa depends on Africans themselves and not on consultants, who should act solely as catalysts,” said David Noko, Executive Vice-President of South African mining company AngloGold Asanti, at a panel organised as part of the 9th edition of the African Economic Conference, which opened on Saturday in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.

During the panel "Adapting skills to 21st century industry requirements", Noko said that things could not stay as they were, and the continent needed to face the challenge of the lack of technology and skills.

Noko revealed that the company he heads, with a presence in six countries of the continent, had to delay several project starts, in particular because of a glaring shortage of skilled African staff to perform the task. The Executive Vice-President of AngloGold invited African leaders to meet the challenge of harmonising training and the employment market.

Another panel member, Takyiwaa Manuh, Director of Social Development Policy at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), insisted on the need to "fill the gaps" between the current system in the majority of the continent's countries and the real needs of the jobs market.

"In Africa, what we have is more a problem of quality than quantity", she explained, emphasising that a greater emphasis needed to be placed on primary education (with a current access rate of 24%).

Manuh went on to say that African universities are geared towards arts courses, while science and technology are virtually absent from programmes.

"The consolidation of the strong economic growth seen in recent years in many countries of the continent must go hand in hand with availability of a skilled labour force, especially for operation of the extractive industries", added the ECA Director of Social Development. Takyiwaa Manuh also called for particular attention being paid to the informal sector in Africa, which employs many young people.

When it came for former Algerian Industry Minister Hamid Temmar to speak, he too emphasised the importance of developing human capital in the quest for the economic transformation of the continent.

This 9th edition of the Conference will, until Monday, November 3, gather together policy-makers, business leaders, economists and academics from around the world on the theme of "Knowledge and innovation for Africa’s transformation".

The conference, organised annually by the African Development Bank Group (AfDB), ECA and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in its current session provides an opportunity to study ways to leverage knowledge and innovation for the economic transformation of the continent.

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