One billion opportunities: Building human capital in Africa

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Sustainable development in Africa will not be possible if those responsible do not factor in large segments of the population and ensure that training and capacity building efforts match the real needs on the ground. These are the findings of a panel discussion held on May 27 in Marrakech, Morocco, at the 48th Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB). 

Titled “One billion opportunities: Transforming the human capital setting for inclusive economic growth in Africa”, the panel brought together AfDB experts and government officials from the Bank’s member states.

The panelists included Mthuli Ncube, the AfDB’s Vice-President and Chief Economist, the Director of the Human Development Department Agnes Soucat, the Financial Secretary at the Ministry of Finance in Mauritius, Ali Mansoor, and the Secretary General of the Department of Professional Training at the Ministry of Labour and Professional Training in Morocco, Jamal El Aloua. The meeting was chaired byAfDB Vice-President, Sector Operations, Aly Abou-Sabaa.

The discussions focused on the important role of training at all levels and, in particular, among young people. Abou-Sabaa said that only quality training, tailored to the environment, especially to the job market, would help ensure that African men and women succeeded in transforming their lives, their environments and their countries. 

He said the new information and communication technologies held enormous potential for the transformation of African economies.

Speaking on human capital as presented in the book she co-authored with Ncube, ‘One Billion People, One Billion Opportunities: Building Human Capital in Africa’, Soucat listed the courses that could facilitate sustainable transformation, strengthen accountability, enhance the power of social networks and self-reliance, as well as stimulate a rethink of the systems of education on the African continent.

Ncube said there was a direct link between the quality of human capital and the quality of services offered in a country. Africa’s demographic dividend, he said, should be tapped further to ensure it has a durable impact on the transformation of African society.

Africa faced major challenges but there were examples of success. Countries could learn how overcome these through South-South cooperation, as is the case with the technical training provided by Morocco. 

Morocco’s El Aloua said 80 per cent of technical training in the country was carried out by technical training schools and trainees were functional as soon as they were employed. 

He said the Moroccan Government has handed over training and skills management to professional bodies and non-governmental organizations. This approach has had an important impact in the incorporation of the youth in society.

Mansoor of Mauritius emphasized the need for the sharing of experiences through South-South cooperation and the establishment of joint training programs with institutions like the AfDB. 

A round of questions and answers dwelt on themes including international cooperation, regional integration and the role of the private sector in African development. 

Dinehsh Sanghvi, Head of the Financial Institutions Group at Standard Bank in Dubai, said private banks should set up social programs, such as training scholarships, and provide computer hardware to schools to enhance the quality of training for Africa’s young people.

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