Education is widely known to be the most imperative asset in improving stability and peace for any society. This powerful tool provides individuals with the skill set and self-confidence to aid the world and flourish in various ways. It grants the population with the knowledge to boost economic growth, reduce poverty, increase disaster response rates and much more.
Unfortunately, educational training is not easily accessible throughout Africa. Africa has some of the highest rates of educational exclusion in the world, while those who are lucky enough to be enrolled may not learn the basic skills necessary to enter the global workforce. Poor learning environments, technological inadequacy and insufficient materials are just some of the major hurdles the system faces, and they create lackluster learning environments that are unable to inspire the students and the faculty.
While Africa is not the only continent facing these types of problems, its unique demographics add a layer of urgency to the situation. Africa is the youngest continent in the world, with 60% of its current population under 25 years old. Analysts predict that by 2030, the number of African youth (those between the ages of 15 and 24, as defined by the United Nations) will increase by 42% — and they already currently make up 19% of the global youth population. The problems in the African education system are stifling millions of bright minds and potential entrepreneurs.
The African educational system must do more to ensure that the youth of the continent are prepared for the professional world upon their graduation. There must be a renewed focus on technology, communication and collaborative abilities and critical thinking, while also not losing sight of the basic numerical and literacy know-how necessary to be a productive member of any society.
In today’s data-focused world, understanding the latest technological developments and platforms is essential for anyone who wants to enter the business world. Technological knowledge will allow young African entrepreneurs to utilize the tools and programs that so many in the West take for granted. Even basic knowledge of spreadsheet programs can make a huge difference in a young entrepreneur’s career.
Of course, one cannot speak about technology with mentioning the internet. Accessing and understanding the World Wide Web can open up millions of potential customers and business opportunities, quickly turning a local business into a global conglomerate. Social media platforms also provide free marketing opportunities that many in Africa are missing out on simply because they don’t have the knowledge necessary to utilize them efficiently. With digital and mobile access on the rise in Africa, it is crucial that African entrepreneurs are able to capitalize on this upcoming technological revolution.
Those well versed in communication will be able to convey and discuss new ideas with peers, mentors and, perhaps most importantly, investors. Many young business professionals forget that you cannot just coast by with a great idea; you have to be able to sell that idea, as well. That means giving your company a voice so that it speaks to investors.
But communication is not just about speaking. It is also about listening and using what you hear to collaborate with and learn from others. A report by McKinsey found that between 2008 and 2010, companies that had diverse teams with multiple voices were more likely to perform well financially. Adept collaborators will be able to adapt to more team-oriented environments, allowing them to accept constructive criticism while also offering their own when appropriate.
Finally, teaching students to critically think for themselves will encourage them to challenge the status quo and become calculated risk takers. Entrepreneurship is a risky business; 20% of new companies fail in their first year, and only 50% survive through their fifth year. A successful entrepreneur must be able to navigate these risks with the appropriate balance of brazenness and humility. This requires ignoring all the noise out there so they can come to an informed decision based solely on the facts and information in front of them.
While we are a long way from where we need to be, progress is being made. Countries such as Kenya and South Africa are reexamining their education systems to ensure that students are not just taught how to read and write, but also how to interact in the professional world. Technological innovations, like those spearheaded by The Click Foundation, QuickDo’s BookBox, Kio Kit and others, are giving younger students access to technology that will be essential for their continuous educational and professional growth.
Of course, there is still more work to be done. Policymakers across the continent must step up to the plate and help create new paths for better learning. Every element in the education system gets implemented on the basis of their decisions, so they are a crucial part in progressing the system.
In today’s rapidly changing and fast-paced world, a technology-based education system that teaches communication, collaboration and critical thinking is a fundamental cornerstone of an aspiring entrepreneur’s journey. African educational institutions must do more to ensure that these skills are enshrined in the minds of their youthful population to ensure positive economic growth in the years to come.