Accelerating the digitalization of vocational training in Africa

Are TVET systems on the African continent struggling to enter the digital age? This is one of the questions addressed in a recent IIEP-UNESCO report on "Digital Transformation of TVET and Skills Development Systems in Africa". Targeting five countries on the continent (Madagascar, Nigeria, Rwanda, Chad, and Tunisia), the report calls for overcoming key challenges in the process of digitally transforming skills development systems in the post-pandemic phase.

Transformation digitale de l'EFTP en Afrique

While ICTs are essential for the transmission of digital knowledge, many countries in Africa are struggling to overcome the challenge of low internet coverage and poor digital infrastructure. Weak electrification networks and difficulties in technical and financial access hamper government attempts to bring digital technology to the technical and vocational education and training (TVET) sector. Yet this is a political priority.

The Continental Education Strategy 2016-2025 developed by the African Union in 2018 aims to build the national, regional and continental TVET ecosystem. "Previously, digitization was seen as an upcoming issue, which mostly concerned the most advanced education and training schemes. But with the advent of the covid 19 crisis, there has been a realization that it is an unavoidable priority for everyone,” said Nicola Tissi, TVET specialist at IIEP-UNESCO, coordinator of the study.

Digital in tentative evolution

Efforts are underway in several countries, such as Tunisia, with the establishment of a national strategic plan, or Rwanda, which has created a division dedicated to digital technologies within the Rwanda TVET Board. In 2015 Kigali launched a Smart Rwanda Master Plan, which proposes the use of new technological materials. A programme accompanied by a diploma course, a stepping stone into the knowledge economy sector.

But the digital gamble can be risky because of the lack of technological culture and limited qualifications. In most of the countries in the study, "a very small number of teachers are trained in digital technology," says Hadhami Abassi, an international expert in educational science who participated in the study.

In Madagascar, for example, only 80 technical high school teachers and supervisory staff were recently able to benefit, with the support of the ADB, from training on the creation of a digital teaching module and on putting content online. According to the report, with 50% of trainers trained in ICT, only Rwanda has met the challenge.

"Digitalisation also comes up against limited equipment maintenance services," Hadhami Abassi continues. With the exception of Rwanda, which has set up a quality assurance system, the other countries inject very few resources into the operation of the digital training offer.

Pulling the sector upwards

In the future, African countries will have to make more efforts on investments in equipment and ICT infrastructure (digital band, tools), training (certification framework), adaptation of training courses to the demands of the labor market. "The urgency is to conduct a continuous dialogue with the private ICT sector, to find mutual benefits and maximize the potential of digitization as a means to better train young people in all training courses, but also as a goal, namely to increase the digital skills of the workforce, "says Nicola Tissi.

This consultation should even extend to international players according to Ms. Abassi, who recommends establishing partnerships with major players in the sector such as IBM and openclassroom, ANETI, via its online training space; this opportunity offers a bouquet of training, some of which are certifying for the benefit of job seekers and young promoters. Such initiatives for the digitalization of TVET in Africa can help fight against endemic unemployment, and prepare the youth who represent the hope of the continent to better take advantage of economic opportunities tomorrow.