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The African Union is urging governments to emphasize functional education, through revising education systems, and focusing on vocational and technical programs at the ongoing 6th Annual  Meetings for the African Union Conference of Ministers of Economy and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Conference of African Ministers of Finance and Economic Development in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

The theme of the 2013 conference is “industrialization for an emerging Africa”, and the AU recognizes the fact that this can only be driven by job creation, through practical, skills-based education.

Prof. Emmanuel Nnadozie, the Director for the Macroeconomics Division of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, says that governments need to review their education systems, to train employable youth, or those who can employ themselves.

Africa’s youth population is estimated at about 200 million, 45 percent of the total labour force. Uganda is said to have the world’s youngest population, according to World Bank statistics from 2012.

According to information from the Ministry of Labour, Gender and Social Development, over 40, 000 Ugandan youth complete their education each year, but only 9,000 jobs are available.

In Uganda, though efforts have been made to revive vocational education through the Technical Vocational Education and Training Department (BTVET) of the Ministry of Education and Sports, the sector is still challenged by under facilitated institutions, where students and instructors still use old, manual machinery.

For instance, a study conducted in 2011 through the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, which aimed to analyze the availability of skills that could be absorbed in the emerging petroleum industry, found out that almost all available graduates of vocational institutions, with skills that would be relevant to the sector will have to be re-tooled, to fit in. The National Participation in the Oil and Gas Industry study pointed out that at least 10,000 Ugandans would need to be retrained.

At the function,Prof. Renee Kouassi, the Director of Economic Affairs at the African Union Commission says that Africa’s 1 billion people provide both skills’ potential and a market base. He adds that this can only be harnessed if Africa adds value to its natural resources, through putting youth skills to use, to reverse the trend of being a raw material market for the developed world.

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