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Technical skills are key in driving African sustainable industrialization

Miss Ariekot Faith, a Mechanical Engineering from Uganda Technical College, Kichwamba, and team Uganda during the ATC Season 8 training at the Technical University of Kenya in Nairobi.

Africa remains the world’s least industrialized region, with only one country on the entire continent, this is as per the 2022 data from United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

The report further states that only South Africa is categorized as industrialized. There needs to be a fundamental shift in the structure of the economies of African nations. Industry, especially manufacturing, will have to account for a far greater share of national investment, output, and trade.

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It is expected that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, which will become operational on 1 January 2021, will usher in new and dynamic opportunities by enhancing intra-African trade and fostering an environment that can unlock foreign direct investment in the continent. There is also the prospect of many of the 100 million labor-intensive jobs that are projected to leave China by 2030 being relocated to African countries.

The continent is however facing a skills mismatch that has forced most countries to revamp their education systems which over the decades has been geared towards producing white-collar job graduates.

“The leaders in the continent have realized that the old education system is more than a curse to the people hence by investing in the TVET sector, they are preparing their youth to take up the jobs and drive industrialization in Africa,” says Gildas Ogandaga, Team Leader, Gabon.

Asian economic giant China has been at the forefront of driving the uptake of technical courses among African youth.

Chinese global firm AVIC International Holding Corporation (AVIC INTL) in collaboration with the Ministry of Education of Kenya and the China Education Association for International Exchange has organized Africa Tech Challenge [ATC]. The ATC which is in its 8th edition aimed to empower the continent’s youth with industry-based skills.

Mr Ogandaga adds that “This is an opportunity for my students who are participating to improve their skills to meet global standards. The Gabon government is banking on the TVET sector to curb youth unemployment which is not just a calamity but a ticking bomb for the country.”

Since 2019 AVIC International firm has built three TVET centers in Gabon.

“The Chinese firm has built CIMFEP center in Nkok -Libreville, CIMFEP center Mvengue-Franceville, and CIMFEP center Tchengue-Port Gentile. These centers are fully equipped with modern CNC and Lathe machines that has enabled our students to acquire the much-needed skills needed by Gabon to drive industrialization,” comments Odandaga.

The ATC Season 8 has attracted nine countries namely; Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, Egypt, Zambia, Tanzania, Cote D’Ivoire, and Zimbabwe.

“The machines here are top of the world and it’s a great opportunity to scale up our training and we hope that we win the competition. ATC has offered an opportunity for idea sharing and benchmarking on various TVET sectors. Personally, I love technical work and hence I am enjoying the training and hope to use the skills to better my country,” says Ange Lambert Mbourou, a General Mechanical student from Gabon.

His comments are echoed by Ariekot Faith, a Mechanical Engineering from Uganda Technical College, Kichwamba.

“Engineering has always been viewed as a male career but am here to change the narrative and show the world that we can have great female engineers not just from Uganda but across the continent. The blue-collar job is the future for our youth in Africa and the Chinese firm is on the right track by organizing such competition to enable us to put skills to the test, this enables us to correct where we are wrong and better where we are right.”

Mr Paul Mutyaba-Team leader of Uganda also opines that technical skills are key in driving sustainable industrialization in Africa.

“75 percent of Ugandan TVET graduates have theory-based skills hence they don’t have practical skills hence it’s a huge challenge for them to gain employment. But we are now seeing a new shift from the Uganda government has given a directive that all the training must be 30 percent theory and 70 percent practical and this will ensure our graduates have industry needed skills.”

The winners of ATC season 8 will be awarded internships and job opportunities among other rewards.
Moreover, all Africa Tech Challenge participants receive certificates to show their participation and to highlight the skills they learned during the session.

Africa Tech Challenge is also a significant economic development driver since it drives solutions to challenges in the national economy that need interdisciplinary use of science and technology.

The challenge targeting contestants from nine countries namely; Kenya, Egypt, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Ghana, Gabon, and Còte d’Ivoire will see the top six teams walking away with numerous prizes.

Themed ‘Role of Engineering in driving industrialization in Africa, this year’s competition will focus on the rapidly developing construction industry, notably the design component.

Contestants will be able to boost their design abilities, especially in reading and drafting construction drawings using cutting-edge technology tools such as ZWCAD.

The initiative takes the shape of a training program and a competition, with the most outstanding participants getting fully financed scholarships to prestigious Chinese universities.

The one-month competition is being hosted at the Technical University of Kenya [TUK].

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