Economies across Africa are unable to absorb a significant proportion of young people, mainly because the education system is not aligned to the needs of the country.
This is according to President Cyril Ramaphosa who was presenting to a secondary education conference in Johannesburg.
Rampahosa said that most unemployed young people across Africa are those who have completed secondary or tertiary education. By comparison, unemployment is lower among those who have little to no education, he said.
“You may ask, how is it so? Agriculture is the largest employer, and for now, it is labour intensive and requires workers who in most cases are without education.
“Those who completed secondary or tertiary education are finding it difficult to secure employment. Among other things, this is due to a mismatch of the skills people learn and the needs of the market.
“With the advent of the fourth industrial revolution, there is a danger that this mismatch will grow. Due to the skills deficit, our countries are ill-prepared for technological change.”
To address these issues, Ramaphosa said that government needs to change the direction of secondary school education to develop relevant skills for the ‘new type of economy’.
“The impetus for economic activity is shifting from very large enterprises to smaller individual-led companies,” he said.
“An entrepreneur developing their product in a garage is now likely to create more value chain jobs than a big manufacturing company. The manufacturing sector, while still a significant driver of growth, is not generating as many jobs as in previous decades.
“We see more jobless growth because of the use of technology to replace workers. These changes have an impact on the nature of the skills required. ”
Ramaphosa said that young people need foundational cognitive skills in science, technology engineering and mathematics – the so-called STEM skills – to be absorbed in the economy.
“As agreed in Agenda 2063, of those who enter tertiary education institutions, 70% ideally should graduate in STEM subjects,” he said.
“Digital skills, such as coding, are essential to integration in the world of work. Such skills should be accompanied by soft skills such as emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills and excellent communication skills. ”
Ramaphosa added that instead of rote learning, young people need skills in unstructured problem solving and reasoning.
“Critical thinking skills are what will drive job creation and economic growth in the future,” he said.
“We must change our educational systems to develop these skills.”