You are here

Keynote Speech by Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group at TICAD7 Side Event - "Investing in Human Capital in Africa: A Case Study for Education and Skills, Nutrition, Health, and Jobs for Youth" - 29 August, 2019

02-Sep-2019

I am delighted that you all joined us here today for this program. Nothing can be more important than the development of human capital. The growth and development of nations – and indeed their capacity to innovate and solve their own problems with locally driven solutions – all depend on the quality of human capital.

That is why the African Development Bank has invested over $2 billion to support education since 2005. The return on the investment has been the provision of educational opportunities for 6 million students.

But as we do, we are also learning from the needs of countries, the needs of the labor markets and also from new developments that must inform the type of educational investments needed for more rapid economic growth and job creation.

The world of the future – or should I say the world of the now – is being shaped by artificial intelligence, machine learning, quantum data analytics, automation, robotics, nanotechnology and biotechnology, which collectively are expanding the innovation space at a pace never seen before.

Training and capacities in science, technologies, engineering and mathematics are therefore more critical today than ever before. Africa cannot afford to be left behind in the fourth industrial revolution. We should therefore build capacity for the jobs of the future not the jobs of the past.

African leaders are showing the leadership needed for this to happen. President Sall of Senegal and President Kagame of Rwanda are championing the new Einstein Forum to nurture world-class scientists that will power Africa in global frontiers of innovation – such as the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences. President Kenyatta has continued to provide inspiring leadership in driving a digital revolution in Kenya and on the continent, Kenya’s huge success with M-PESA has led to several technology start-ups on the continent and digital financial payment systems.

The African Development Bank itself is ramping up its investments to take advantage of these emerging opportunities. We financed the establishment of the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology that is now producing world-class graduates in ICT. All of the graduates from the program get jobs before they finish and several of them have also moved into entrepreneurship, and become job creators themselves. That’s the kind of educational system we should do more of – driven not by the supply side of education but by the demand side, the needs of the labor market.

The Bank has supported the establishment of ICT digital parks in Senegal and Cape Verde. We are working with the Rockefeller Foundation, Microsoft, Facebook, LinkedIn and Safaricom to establish coding centers in several countries.

Our partnership with Japan on human capital development is showing good results, including the establishment of the Egypt-Japan University of Science and Technology in Egypt; the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology; and the African University of Science and Technology in Nigeria.

As we look towards the future of investments in human capital in Africa, I would like to suggest five priority areas we should consider.

Dramatically improve the rate of return on human capital development. When we expend so much on education and the graduates do not get jobs, talk less of decent jobs, the rate of return on education is negative – and cumulative demand for higher education falls.

Expand educational opportunities for girls and women. In many African countries, early child marriage forces girls to drop out of school, compromising their future. And we need to strongly support more female students and provide incentives for them to go into science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Establish more universities of science and technology, especially regional centers of excellence and ensure they are very well funded.

Emphasize vocational education training to provide necessary skills for jobs and self-employment

Prioritize life-long learning to enhance flexibility in employment opportunities, especially given rapid technological changes that could make prior learning obsolete, quickly, and more than ever before.

Nelson Mandela once said: “education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” Yes, he was right. Education is also a societal leveler that enables the children of the poor to be on an even playing field as those of the rich. To ensure a more equal world, we must provide quality education for all.

Let us be world changers by championing quality education for all.

 

Thanks very much.

Related Sections