IIAS Disseminates Findings from Study on Graduate Employability in Africa
Ife Institute of Advanced Studies organized a conference to disseminate the findings from a scoping study to understand the labour market opportunities and barriers for tertiary graduates in urban centres in Nigeria, Kenya, Cameroon, Zambia, and Algeria. The research was carried out between January and March 2023 in the five countries with support from the Mastercard Foundation. In attendance at the dissemination programme were the country directors, research assistants, and national team leads on the project. Representatives of the IIAS Committee, the Olupona Foundation, and the general public were also present at the virtual event held via Zoom. The keynote was delivered by Prof. Akanni Akinyemi an expert in Demography and Social Statistics, and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research Innovation, and Development, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria.
Dr. Omotayo Owoeye presented the key findings from the study. The major aspects of the findings are:
- Unemployment is still high among graduates across Africa.
- Graduates resort to taking available jobs to keep busy and meet immediate needs instead of what they were trained for.
- There are high cases of skill mismatch between the requirements of the industry and the skills disseminated at the higher institutions.
- There are high cases of under-employment and underpayment among graduates who are engaged in some form of economic activities
- Majority of graduates still wish to transition into their dream fields if given the chance.
The Keynote delivered by Prof. Akanni Akinyemi was titled: Graduate Employability in Africa and it examined the context of graduate employment in Africa. He noted that the world is concerned about what goes on with the population in Africa because one-third of global population will be in Africa by 2050, and the population will include about 830 million young people. He compared the number of the youth population to tertiary enrolment in Africa and showed that tertiary enrolment in Africa (10.4% in Africa and 7% in sub-Saharan Africa) is lower than the global average (38%). He argued that tertiary education adds value to the individual, family, and community in different ways including that people with tertiary education are likely to have a 17% increase in earnings compared to those with secondary education. He used the UNESCO 2022 qualification mismatch in sub-Saharan Africa to show that graduates in Africa suffer from both vertical and horizontal mismatch. There are those who have a certificate but are economically inactive. Furthermore, he discussed the pillars tertiary institutions in Nigeria should subscribe to strengthen the educational system, they are creativity and innovation, investment in information and communication technologies, and build conducive economic institutional environment. In addition, he said that we need to investigate our policies at national and regional levels. We should advocate for policies that are geared towards innovation, entrepreneurship, and university industry linkage. Also, students should develop problem solving attitude to learning because knowledge economy is the future of Africa, and we need to promote it.
The team leads and country directors from the five countries talked about their field experiences. There was particular emphasis on the challenges of gaining entrance to some tertiary institutions and gaining the consent of some graduates for participation in the study.
Other comments included:
- Kenya is focused on competency-based learning in the primary level education, but it is not trickled into the university education, and it has caused a major gap in graduate employability on the continent.
- Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many classes have moved online, and this has created opportunities for the students to also be involved in entrepreneurial activities.
- The future of work in Kenya lies in technology and in the gig economy.
- The needs of women, especially pregnant women, and nursing mothers are different from the needs of male graduates.
- Gender dynamics should be taken into account and solutions should be proffered accordingly.
- Some firms have had issues with funding from the government and have stopped going to tertiary institutions to recruit students. It has reduced the enthusiasm of youths to go to school. A lot of the graduate students were focused on getting jobs in the oil firms without looking into other options.
- School buildings are not conceived with people living with disability in mind, and these people face discrimination when they go in search of jobs.
- There is lack of preparation from the schools for students with special needs.
- Nursing mothers struggle to get jobs because of the attention and care they need to give to their babies.
- Most of the youths in Cameroon are literates and are graduates but majority of them do not have jobs or are not satisfied with their jobs.
- The educational system of Cameroon is tailored towards general education and less emphasis is given to technical education.
- There was lack of a solid database in Zambia.
- There is no dedicated space for graduates to get information or help, and there is high unemployment in the country.
The graduate experiences shared further emphasized that there is a high level of skill mismatch, under-employment, and unemployment among graduates.