Think and act for entrepreneurship in Africa

Training

Conversations with Senegal’s educational ecosystem: the imperatives to employability

Each year, Senegal sees a cohort of 200,000 young people enter the job market, according to official figures from the Ministry of Employment, Vocational Training, Apprenticeship and Integration. Yet, despite…

Each year, Senegal sees a cohort of 200,000 young people enter the job market, according to official figures from the Ministry of Employment, Vocational Training, Apprenticeship and Integration. Yet, despite this abundance of potential manpower, youth unemployment remains a major concern.

This reality raises a crucial question: why this gap between job supply and demand? And why are so many young graduates struggling to find a place in the job market?

In the 21st century, professions have undergone a continuous and growing evolution, requiring graduates not only to have technical qualities, but above all to be able to demonstrate personal and interpersonal skills and attitudes: soft skills.

In this article, we talk to a number of people involved in education, vocational training and entrepreneurship in Senegal, about updating knowledge and the importance of developing soft skills for employability.

 

” The skills young people are trained in are not always adapted to the real needs of the job market. “

The training of young people must be aligned with the real needs of the labor market to ensure an effective transition from education to employment. On the one hand, this gap can be explained by the fact that too much emphasis is placed on the acquisition of theoretical knowledge to the detriment of practical skills. In the short to medium term, this gap can be bridged by hands-on learning in the early years of training, through internships or work-study schemes. Secondly, there is the technological lag: technological advances are constantly modifying skill requirements, and training programs are not updated quickly enough to keep pace with this evolution.

– Florence Diob, Financing Manager, Financing Fund for Vocational and Technical Training

 

”  Developing soft skills as well as hard skills”

The quality of education has improved significantly, at least from a technical point of view, but employability requires learners to develop soft skills as well as hard skills. Communicating effectively, resolving conflicts, managing interpersonal relations… these skills can be acquired through an initial training circuit, but also via continuing and short-term training courses. Working on these aspects enables you to acquire a complete set of skills that are necessary to succeed and assert yourself in a competitive professional world.

– Harouna Thiam, Responsable Formation-Insertion – Ministry of Vocational and Technical Training

 

” Teach and professionalize “

There is a notable difference between teaching, which is the transmission of knowledge and concepts, and professionalizing, which aims to prepare learners for a professional environment by developing practical, applicable skills.

We offer a school-enterprise training program, with two application restaurants and a patisserie, so that students are exposed to a professional environment right from the start of their apprenticeship. Since 2006, we have also set up partnerships with leading hotel establishments to recruit young apprentices. In the near future, we also plan to set up a placement agency for our graduates.

– Sidy Dieme, Director of Institut Les Marmitons[1]

 

” An entrepreneurial school “

The vast majority of training courses teach students how to do a job. We have made it our mission to teach them how to create one. Our actions begin in the first year of the bachelor’s degree, with the inclusion of an entrepreneurial module in the curriculum to complement managerial skills.

The Entrepreneurial School takes place in 3 stages:

  • Year 1: Discovery of entrepreneurship with a project idea for each student;
  • Year 2: Students create a mini-company or scenario for a service;
  • Year 3: Creation of a business plan.

We focus specifically on developing the entrepreneurial skills, business knowledge and aptitudes needed to create, manage and develop a successful business.

– Georges Ndeye, Managing Director, ISM Ziguinchor [2]

 

” Economists must map employment needs ” 

Major labor market trends can be anticipated. Mapping employment needs is crucial to ensuring a better match between supply and demand in the labor market, fostering economic development, reducing unemployment and improving the productivity and competitiveness of workers and companies.

On the other hand, the results of this mapping would enable a greater number of young people to better orient themselves in their choice of academic path, and at the same time prevent a potential skills shortage.

– Mame Pemba Balde, HR Manager CRS West Africa [3]

 

The development of human capital for adaptability and integration skills in a fast-changing job market underlines the importance of rethinking educational strategies. Training programs must now not only motivate students, but also actively prepare them for their future careers by developing their soft skills.

This approach calls for a reassessment of the role of initial training, with the emphasis on boosting self-confidence, individual fulfillment and the development of cross-disciplinary skills through internships and work experience.

En investissant dans le développement des soft skills, en adaptant les programmes éducatifs aux besoins du marché du travail et en favorisant la collaboration entre ces différents acteurs, le Sénégal peut créer un environnement propice à l’épanouissement professionnel de sa jeunesse et à une croissance économique durable.

 


[1] *Les Marmitons est un institut de formation aux métiers de la gastronomie, de l’hôtellerie et du tourisme au Sénégal. En savoir plus

[2] ISM Ziguinchor est un établissement d’enseignement privé installé à Ziguinchor depuis 2005. En savoir plus 

[3] CRS est une organisation humanitaire internationale, dont les objectifs comprennent la fourniture d’aide d’urgence, la promotion du développement économique et social, ainsi que le plaidoyer pour la justice sociale En savoir plus.

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Digitization and professional integration: achieving digital integration in Côte d’Ivoire

The rise of digital technology has revolutionized the way we live, communicate, learn and, of course, work. This transformation is especially significant in Africa, where young people face both unique…

The rise of digital technology has revolutionized the way we live, communicate, learn and, of course, work. This transformation is especially significant in Africa, where young people face both unique challenges and countless opportunities in their quest to enter the job market.

 
To understand these dynamics and the potential implications of digital technology, we met with key players in the African education ecosystem in Côte d’Ivoire. A series of testimonials attesting to the growing importance of digital technology in education, and the need to support this movement.

 

” From helpful to necessary, from necessary to indispensable “

In just a few years, and even more since Covid came on the scene, digital has gone from helpful to necessary, and from necessary to indispensable. Professional integration, access to information, interaction, or simply adapting to contemporary demands mean that the adoption of a digital component in almost all training courses has become absolutely essential.  Today, digital technology enables young people to find their place in this fast-changing world, by facilitating rapid access to information and making learning easier.

Dia Jean-Fabrice – Head of Studies at the Institut Ivoirien of Technologie[1]

 

” Training the trainers ” 

The determination of the continent’s young people to embrace digital technology is obvious. But we still need to find a way to better equip them. Firstly, digital equipment and materials are still difficult to access for most people. Secondly, it is essential to invest in the training of trainers, to ensure that digital skills are properly passed on to young people, and to promote their successful integration into an increasingly digitalized world. Finally, we need to multiply the opportunities for young people to apply the skills they have acquired through internships or work-study schemes.

Jean-Delmas Ehui – CEO of ICT4Dev [2]

 

” A public policy focused on digital technology “

In addition to the difficulties involved in acquiring the necessary equipment and making training programs accessible, one of the barriers to digital development is the delay in implementing public policies in favor of digital, the lack of training for trainers, as well as the absence of incentives for companies to take on young people for practical placements.

Changes are needed to provide equitable access to digital resources and train players in education and industry: Fund the purchase of equipment and adequate infrastructure for institutions; encourage collaborations between educational institutions and digital sector companies to facilitate internships and practical learning opportunities; develop advantageous tax policies for companies investing in training young people and developing digital skills ; set up continuing education programs for teachers and professionals, to stay up to date with the latest technological and pedagogical advances.

Jocelyne Mireille Desquith – Assistant to the General Coordinator of the Government Social Program

 

” Sharing ideas and gaining visibility ” 

Digital is revolutionizing professional career management by offering a range of tools and resources that can be accessed at any time and from any location… as long as your area is covered by the internet network.

Beyond this aspect, digital offers young people a platform to make their voices heard and influence social change. Through social media, young people can share their opinions, experiences and demands with a global audience, helping them to broaden their impact and mobilize support for their causes, or echo the ideas they share.

– Achille Koukou – Managing Director of Tg Master University [3]

 

Digitalization offers immense potential for integrating young people into the African job market. However, concerted efforts are needed to overcome the obstacles and fully exploit these opportunities, in order to create a prosperous and inclusive future for all Africans. By implementing these measures, Africa can realize its full potential in the digital age, and provide its young people with the tools they need to succeed in an ever-changing world.

 


[1] Bilingual French-English institute of higher education dedicated to information and communication technologies, biotechnologies and business management. Read more 

[2] A startup specializing in the development and integration of digital and technological solutions for the agricultural sector. Read more

[3] School of excellence preparing for a double Bachelor’s degree (French and Ivorian) in Digital Management and Business Management. Read more

 

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Youth employment: Africa should not train more, but train better

A couple of numbers are enough to understand how important the challenges related to the employability of young people on the African continent are. Currently, 15-24 year-olds represent 20% of…

A couple of numbers are enough to understand how important the challenges related to the employability of young people on the African continent are.

Currently, 15-24 year-olds represent 20% of the African population, but more than 40% of the unemployed [1]. By 2030, according to UNESCO projections, approximately 100 million young people will enter the African labor market due to the demographic structure of the continent.

Meanwhile, many companies and employers are looking for qualified [2] and therefore employable[3] individuals. There is a mismatch between available training programs and the specifics of the labor market, which is undergoing constant restructuring, in many sectors,.

Therefore, one could ask whether the great challenge today is not to train more, but to train better? Especially in the context of technical and vocational education and training, which obviously have a major role to play in promoting the integration of young people into the workplace.

In this article, we will explore three paths to improvement, based on the experience of an African SME in Côte d’Ivoire which specializes in professional training: the Institut de Management, de Gestion et d’Hôtellerie (IMGH), founded by Augustine Bro in 2009. Between December 2020 and July 2021, IMGH employees (managers, middle-managers, trainers) participated in capacity building training organized by GIZ Côte d’Ivoire.

Pathway 1: negotiate the shift to digitalization

Technical and vocational training courses are the first to have to adapt to globalization and the resulting technological changes, as they are oriented towards practice, learning, and the acquisition of work techniques. The transition to digital technology, which was supposed to be gradual, has been drastically accelerated by the Covid-19 crisis, which has had a major impact on the training sector and has redefined the demands of the labor market.

The prerequisites to successfully negotiate this shift are first of all material. In West Africa, household connectivity is not guaranteed in many rural or isolated areas. In addition to internet coverage issues, there are also the costs of the packages needed to consult the online tools necessary for learning[4]. Finally, the acquisition of computer equipment to access the content of online courses is an additional burden for students.

IMGH Focus:

To overcome these material difficulties, IMGH has put training capsules online which can be consulted via computer and mobile phone. This initiative solved both the impossibility of holding face-to-face classes at the height of the Covid crisis, and the connectivity of learners, insofar as most had at least access to the internet via their smartphones. Financial efforts will still be required to ensure that all students have access to online courses.

Since the start of the Covid crisis, IMGH has adopted a mixed approach, combining face-to-face and distance learning. This format offers many advantages: self-paced learning, customizable content, cost savings, etc. It is also a proven model that will be able to adapt to future crises, whether they are health, economic, or political.

Beyond concerns about equipment and connectivity, the greatest challenge of this transition to digital could be that of the competence of trainers and the transmission of knowledge (theoretical knowledge, but also and above all, know-how – techniques, professional gestures, practice, behaviour,  quality,  values).

Some of these elements, already difficult to transmit in a face-to-face environment, are even more so in distance or hybrid teaching and require much more involvement and pedagogy from the trainers. Hence the need to train trainers and any other person involved in the transmission process beforehand.

Pathway 2: Update trainers’ skills

The quality and relevance of any professional training is directly related to the professional competence of the trainers.

In the case of vocational training, most of the courses offered are taught by teaching teams from the trade. This situation responds to the logic of transmitting techniques specific to each profession, which would otherwise be difficult to share. Nevertheless, this empirical knowledge, acquired thanks to years of experience in the field, tends to become fixed in time. The risk being that once transposed onto the job market, the skills transmitted to students turn out to be obsolete. Consequently, it is essential to constantly renew the skills of trainers.

The training of managers and middle-managers is also an essential aspect to take into account. In the age of digital transformation. The success of a new development strategy depends on the ability of all employees to adopt it. They contribute fully to the internal transformation of the company and thus participate in the process of skills transfer.

IMGH Focus

The GIZ training, which the IMGH team attended, is based on the logic of alternating practice and theory, which allows the knowledge acquired to be updated and transferred directly to the workplace thanks to a point of view and experience from outside the organization.

According to Augustine Bro, founder of IMGH, this training has enabled her entire team to be more aware of the changes taking place in the professional market and to adapt their training offers in the long term.

Pathway 3: Capacity building through the co-development method

Finally, there can be a more collective approach to the new problems linked to the transformation of professions. Updating skills and knowledge to adapt to the demands of the job market is a necessity, and being in contact with other professionals would be an effective way to overcome one’s own shortcomings and acquire new knowledge.

A professional co-development group is a development approach for people who believe they can learn from each other to improve their practice. Individual and group reflection is facilitated through a structured consultation exercise that focuses on issues currently experienced by participant[5].

Thus the co-development method makes it possible to directly approach the practical side of a job, or of a task to be carried out, in a concerted manner. In contrast to a normative approach that only offers a single point of view, co-development, through the plurality of contributions, increases the development perspectives tenfold. This approach encourages everyone to consider a situation from a different and complementary angle, to think much deeper and to adapt new and more productive solutions.

IMGH Focus

“The adoption of the co-development method has brought new life to our organization. A new and very positive dynamic has taken hold and everyone is now voluntarily contributing to it, whether it be in terms of training, management, or governance. For example, those who are more comfortable with computers do not hesitate to give a helping hand to their colleagues in difficulty, and those who are struggling with other issues do not hesitate to ask for advice or help. So far, this method has been nothing but beneficial, both in terms of accounting and the work atmosphere” – Augustine Bro

In summary

The mismatch between existing training programs and the needs of an ever-changing labor market hinders the economic development of African countries. Opportunities exist and are being created, but the continent is still struggling to provide a skilled and employable workforce.

Vocational training actors, such as IMGH in Côte d’Ivoire, need to offer up-to-date and relevant content. We have mentioned here some of the practices implemented by IMGH since the Covid-19 crisis and the GIZ training (digitizing its training offer, strengthening the skills of trainers and teams…), but many other ideas can still be formulated to bring relevant and quality vocational training to African youth!

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[1]  http://www.iiep.unesco.org/fr/en-afrique-la-transformation-de-la-formation-professionnelle-est-en-marche-13763

[2] Jean-Michel SEVERINO, RFI 20/01/19 https://www.rfi.fr/fr/emission/20190121-afrique-manque-emplois-qualifies-investir-formation

[3] En se référant à la définition donnée par l’Organisation internationale du travail (OIT), l’employabilité est « l’aptitude de chacun à trouver et conserver un emploi, à progresser au travail et à s’adapter au changement tout au long de la vie professionnelle »

[4] https://www.entreprenanteafrique.com/les-ecoles-africaines-au-temps-du-covid-19/#_ftn6

[5] Adrien PAYETTE, Claude CHAMPAGNE, PUQ, 1997 ( https://www.puq.ca/catalogue/livres/groupe-codeveloppement-professionnel-573.html )

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A survey of African education institutions: coping with the Covid-19 crisis

The Covid-19 health crisis has hit the education sector hard, from early childhood to vocational training, with school closures and distance learning. We surveyed some thirty African educational institutions to…

The Covid-19 health crisis has hit the education sector hard, from early childhood to vocational training, with school closures and distance learning. We surveyed some thirty African educational institutions to understand the impacts of the crisis and the coping strategies put in place by those most affected.

 

A brief methodological overview

This article is based on a survey conducted among 36 African educational institutions.

Respondents are mostly based in West Africa (Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin), but also from Cameroon and Madagascar. Respondents operate in a wide variety of business segments: vocational training, higher education, early childhood, primary education, secondary education, Ed-tech (educational technology), and ancillary activities (publishing, printing, etc.).

 

Financing is a key issue

It comes as no surprise that the health crisis presents a significant challenge to the educational institutions surveyed. 53% of them report a negative impact, and 13% have even experienced a shutdown of their activities. The early childhood sector is the most affected by the crisis (See also our article: “Covid-19: what impacts on the early childhood sector?’’)

The main challenge for these institutions is financial, because of the difficulty of recovering school fees during school closures, in addition to the constant cost of school personnel and operations. The cash flow challenge is the one most often mentioned by respondents, ahead of human resources and production challenges, for example [see graph 1]. Nearly 60% of educational institutions have experienced a drop in revenue due to the health crisis.

What are your main challenges today?

The current situation, and in particular the sudden closure of schools, has highlighted the lack of infrastructure adapted to connectivity, at national level but also within educational institutions themselves (lack of equipment, adapted classrooms, etc.).

 

The adaptation to the crisis and the growing role of digital

The sudden closure of schools has forced the vast majority of educational institutions to adapt and rethink their offer and operating methods. Some have even developed a new offer. This is the case of KËR Imagination, which has developed tools for parents to help them accompany their children at home. These changes were undertaken urgently in the context of an unprecedented situation, but could become permanent for 47% of the institutions surveyed.

The most obvious of these changes is the use of digital technology and the development of online learning. 60% of respondents used a digital platform as a response to the challenges of the Covid-19 crisis and the abrupt closure of schools.

We also note that these platforms had to be set up urgently for many educational institutions, which did not have any specific digital tools before the crisis. Multiple challenges had to be overcome: adapting educational content, maintaining student motivation, adapting academic deadlines… [See graph n°2]. It was also necessary to propose innovative solutions to students with connectivity problems and those who could not work from home.

The main challenges in setting up a digital platform

The transition to digital has proven to be very difficult, if not impossible, to implement for some institutions, particularly in early childhood or vocational training, for which distance learning was not an option. Most of these institutions have implemented small groups to ensure social distancing. This answer was efficient but implied a lot of logistics: reorganization of the space, purchase of masks and hydroalcoholic gel, disinfection between each group…

 

What will remain of this emergency adaptation in the medium and long term?

47% of respondents consider that digitalization had a positive impact on the content provided:

  • Digitalization has urged some structures to develop new offers, and thus propose more diversified contents
  • The move to digital technology has made it possible to reach a wider audience, in particular by introducing continuing education offerings that are accessible to professionals (who need great flexibility) and by expanding the geographic scope
  • Digitalization has increased the capacity of training institutions, with less pressure on the physical infrastructure

 

On the other hand, no educational institution plans to use only e-learning in the near future. However, a blended learning model, combining e-learning and in-class learning, could become widespread in a large number of educational institutions [see graph 3].

How do you envisage the future organization of your company?

 

To conclude

⇒ The education sector is strongly affected by the Covid-19 crisis. This is particularly the case for the early childhood sub-sector.

The main challenge for these institutions is financial, because of the difficulty of recovering school fees during school closures, in addition to the constant cost of school personnel and operations, resulting in a real working capital problem and significant cash flow pressures.

The current situation, and in particular the sudden closure of schools, has highlighted the lack of infrastructure adapted to connectivity (lack of equipment, adapted classrooms, etc.).

While digital has been represented several times as a response to the Covid-19 crisis, it should be noted that it does not represent a long-term learning option for these institutions. It is rather blended learning that could become widespread.

⇒ The actors interviewed seem optimistic that the current situation will return to “normal”. Nevertheless, the sector is still mixed on the permanence of the changes made.

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Entrepreneurship for a better tomorrow in Guinea

Kouramoudou Magassouba presents the NGO Horizons d’Afrique, which he launched in 2017 to promote social entrepreneurship among Guinean youth.  Entrepreneurship is not – or should not be – limited to…

Kouramoudou Magassouba presents the NGO Horizons d’Afrique, which he launched in 2017 to promote social entrepreneurship among Guinean youth. 

Entrepreneurship is not – or should not be – limited to wealth creation alone. Starting an entrepreneurial project is above all about passion, creativity, strongly believing in a project. The NGO Horizons d’Afrique has been promoting this message since 2017 to Guinean students, so as to train a new generation of young entrepreneurs who are aware of social and environmental issues.

I launched The NGO a few years after my return to Guinea, in a context of latent economic and social crisis (high unemployment rate, especially among young people, illegal emigration). In 2010, I started teaching at a private university in Conakry while working at the Central Bank of the Republic of Guinea. Working directly with young scholars, confused about their futures and very much in need of advice, opened my eyes and pushed me to take action. Because if some government initiatives exist in this area, they are largely insufficient for the moment…

With former students and banking sector professionals, we launched Horizons of Africa to promote the learning of entrepreneurial skills. We do everything in our power to ensure that students are better prepared to enter the entrepreneurial world when they leave school. this cannot be learned in a day!

 

Promoting Entrepreneurial Spirit in Guinea

Horizons d’Afrique’s ambition is to build a community of at least 1,000 young entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs by 2025, capable of creating sustainable jobs.

We say “intrapreneurs” because we are aware that not everyone can or wants to be an entrepreneur. However, we believe anyone can develop entrepreneurial qualities, such as creativity, innovation, or organization. We can offer employees the tools and opportunities to create and innovate. In other words, we can train them to act as entrepreneurs within the company.

 

Launching impactful companies in Guinea

Our programs are open to all young people. They are designed to promote entrepreneurial qualities and values that we believe are fundamental for the society as a whole. Today there are about 6,000 new businesses created yearly in Guinea, but most of them are individual companies and do not create any jobs.

We advocate three key values in particular:

  • Empathy: we encourage students to put themselves in the shoes of others and imagine possible solutions to Guinea’s major social and environmental challenges.
  • Optimism: we promote students’ empowerment and “positive mental attitude”
  • Performance: to create positive impacts on the long-run, a company must be sustainable. The economic model of the company must therefore be viable and generate wealth.

 

Developing programs that address local needs

Horizons d’Afrique has developed a range of programs, depending on the target audiences (high schools, universities, technical schools…). They all provide support to young people who are starting (or are willing to start) an entrepreneurial project. We have built a strong network and we are now able to offer shared resources and skills. For example, we have set up a common technical team (accounting, communication) for the several startups supported by our programs.

With the technical assistance of Pierre ALZINGRE, founder of the Visionari Agency and Start’Up Lycée in France, we concluded in June the first edition of our program “Start’Up Lycée GouTina”, specifically dedicated to high school students. Ten public and private institutions took part in this competition. The students worked throughout the year on entrepreneurial initiatives related to the Sustainable Development Goals. Each working group (made up of ten high school students, including at least four girls per group) was accompanied by a team of three people: a teacher, an NGO staff member and a professional entrepreneur.

 

Conclusion

Throughout my academic and professional career, in Guinea, Morocco and France, I witnessed on many occasions the importance of educating and training young people, so that this new generation can do something constructive for their lives and the development of their country. With African Horizons, we are working as closely as possible with young people to make this possible. Sharing skills and experience is essential. Knowledge is only knowledge if it shared with other people!

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