Unlocking African talent in the 21st century

We can build a strong and relevant education and skill development system on the successes and failures of others, without forgetting where we come from and where we hope to go.

For years now, the theme of “Africa Rising” has continued to resonate amongst intellectual circles focused on our continent. In that time, I’ve felt a growing concern over Africa’s state of development. I wonder what the future holds, and whether we are actually set to “rise.” Our continent’s journey thus far and what lies ahead worries me. How do we lay the path to a brighter narrative for our future generations?

Let’s bring this closer to home. Nigeria’s population hovers around 190 million, and is expected to near 400 million by 2050. This is equivalent to combining the current populations of Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Greece, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and Sweden. I am worried about now, and I am terrified for the future.

The Medium post on “The Education System Africa Needs” by Femi Longe struck a chord. Femi calls for a total overhaul of our current colonial education systems, which are insufficient for producing a skilled workforce required to support the growing population. The challenges we must overcome for Africa to rise are equally matched by deficiencies in human capital. So, what can we do to surmount these challenges?

A strong education system is the cornerstone of any country’s growth and prosperity. The current system we inherited and maintained simply doesn’t cut it. I admire Femi’s emphasis on the need for Africa to identify its goals and gear our education system towards those goals. While I agree that we should be guided by our own aspirations and cultures, I also believe that the best way forward is to learn from and build on the successes and failures of other education systems with our own goals in mind. A complete overhaul of any education system is a daunting and multi-faceted (and expensive) task. Particularly when it involves overhauling the entire curriculum, producing millions of teachers or facilitators, re-orienting mindsets, and potentially building thousands of facilities. This can feel intimidating. But there is hope.

Luckily, we live in a time when alternative models of education and skill development are being created at an accelerated pace around the world. This means that the next generation of Nigerians (and Africans) can leapfrog and create and experience new models of learning. A handful of innovators have built and continue to refine what they believe Africa needs for the next generation: context-based learning and skill development opportunities with pragmatic outcomes linked to the market.

At Andela, we aim to empower globally relevant builders of the future Nigeria (and Kenya, and soon other countries in Africa). Our developers hone their technical and leadership skills by working as distributed global team members of our company partners. We hope these individuals become the bureaucrats, administrators, builders, founders, and employers who have all gone through a bespoke learning experience built for purpose. What purpose? To lay the foundation for Africa’s technological evolution through technology capacity development.

This is my call to action for my fellow Africans: join the movement. Find a field or industry you are passionate about, and build a scalable platform for developing human capacity in that field. If we can sidestep our education system and build new models that can scale massively, maybe… just maybe we can empower our people to reach their full potential and watch Africa rise.