OPINION

Achieving inclusive growth through skills development

It is only through investments that Africa’s human capital potential will be unlocked

In Summary
  • According to the 2018 Human Capital Index, the region has only attained 40% of its human capital potential.
  • While this may be viewed as a dire picture in part, a positive aspect would be to note that vast potential is yet to be tapped into.
A man using the Internet
A man using the Internet
Image: The Star

With a combined population of 1.4 billion, it is arguable that Africa’s greatest asset and potential lies in its people.

However, for the continent to harness this potential and translate the same into productivity and economic growth, investments ought to be targeted at education and skills development. It is through these investments that Africa’s human capital potential – the stock of economically productive human capabilities – will be unlocked.

Human capital encompasses knowledge, health, skills, entrepreneurial talent, determination and other human traits that lead to success in endeavours. It comprises a crucial component of sustainable economic growth, as it is through human capital that ideas are generated and thereafter translated into goods and services that create value.

Further, through a focus on individual human capital development, we are well positioned to unlock the individual potentials of the African populace thereby guaranteeing productive members of society – a hub of innovation, efficiency and productivity.

Per the 2018 Human Capital Index spearheaded by the World Bank, it is unfortunate to note that the region has only attained 40% of its human capital potential. While this may be viewed as a dire picture in part, a positive aspect would be to note that vast potential is yet to be tapped into. This presents opportunities to African governments, policy makers, educators and investors that can not be overlooked.

This opportunity is even more pressing in the present day - a world ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic and a rising political class pushing against the globalisation movement toward more nationalistic policies and ideals.

Actions geared toward tapping into these opportunities are already underway. The World Bank, through the Africa Human Capital Plan launched in April 2019, has set ambitious targets and commitments purposed at boosting the health, knowledge, skills and resilience of the African populace.

This includes USD 2.2 billion channeled to projects throughout Africa with a view to empower women and the girl child – creating employment opportunities, breaking existing gender specific barriers and challenges, for instance child marriages and teen pregnancies, ensuring access to primary, tertiary and secondary education.

Similarly, the African Union (AU), through Agenda 2063, places a strong focus on human capital development as key to achieving African prosperity. Specifically, Agenda 2063 aspires to maintain a high standard of living, quality of life and well being for African citizens, and additionally create an African continent whose development is people driven – a continent for and by the people of Africa.

With well formulated strategies and initiatives in place, of crucial import is the successful implementation of the same. This calls for a coordinated effort to ensure that Governments and policy makers remain committed and true to the course. Undoubtedly, strong governance and targeted financing, supported by independent and stable institutions, is necessary in harnessing the continent’s human capital.