Prosperity Through Vocational Training

For centuries, Africa has been seen by many as a helpless continent. Focus has been placed on political unrest, famine, and religious battles. As a result, efforts of massive proportions have been implemented in hopes to “save” the African people in the post-colonial order. Despite fifty years of trying; these humanitarian projects have proven themselves to be quite ineffective, and Africa has now fallen below the levels it had achieved in the 1960s in several important development categories.

Even as these projects faltered, Africa started to grow on its own. So many people have created perhaps the world’s greatest untapped market. Frustrated with stagnant western economies, multinationals have noticed Africa’s potential and the continent is now a leader in economic growth. But big problems still loom as efforts are focused on patching wounds rather than empowering Africans in a way that propels lasting economic sustainability.

What should the next steps be? How can Africa move to a place of self sufficiency?
Aid has been our traditional response to issues in Africa and has positive effects in emergency situations. Aid effectiveness wanes drastically when sustainability is paramount, and when business needs to take the next step. This is because aid often fails to educate Africans properly to support themselves.

Business generation is better than aid for moving the African continent forward. Larger corporations could be of huge help in this space as they have the capacity to train and educate prospective African employees. A high level of vocational aptitude can be a huge asset to business growth and economic stability in developing nations, because better trained workers can help attract employers and manufacturers to set up more, and more productive operations on the continent.

In a recent Financial Times article journalist Chris Bryant underlined the importance of Germany’s dual educational system in creating a stable economy. In this dual system, cooperation between companies, governments, and employer associations are required as the curriculum is written out as a contract between all parties. Companies such as Mercedes Benz have implemented these strategies globally, including in areas of the United States where they have manufacturing plants located in areas with few skilled workers. Because of the quality of the dual system vocational training workers receive, Mercedes is strengthening the local economy just as it ensures it meets its own manufacturing standards. Tradespeople and services professions are unevenly affected by most economic downturns, meaning that an area with a strong vocationally-trained workforce can be more resilient in difficult times.

An interesting lesson here is that it is not only African governments that have a responsibility to provide more quality education, but that companies and the private sector can also be active in doing the same. A more educated workforce means more productivity for the company, and more stability for the country.

There may also be a key role for aid organizations in this situation. Aid organizations can specialize in helping to identify potential students for vocational programs, and supporting specific vocational initiatives that have local applicability. From there, corporations should be asked by government and NGOs to support and run training programs in various fields, and to draw off the trained workforce for use in their own operations. Supporting this vein of thinking, organizations like the Education for Employment Foundation, founded by wealthy property developer Ron Bruder, work to create job opportunities for unemployed youth in Africa by providing world-class professional and technical training that leads directly to career-building jobs.

A collaborative effort from corporations, NGOs and government in vocational and technical training for Africans can create real and sustaining change, helping the African people become more self sufficient, and better able to impact their own economy.
Lauren Argabrite, a Kentucky native, has been involved with Nuevva and its projects in Africa since 2010.

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