The African Development Bank, in partnership with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), held a virtual stakeholder forum to outline the regional bloc’s human capital strategy.
The forum, which rallied more than 100 stakeholders from across Africa on 30 April, has become imperative because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Millions of jobs have been threatened as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with some job functions now extinct – almost overnight,” said Martha Phiri, Director of the Bank’s Human Capital, Youth and Skills Development Department, in opening remarks at the forum.
She said one of the Bank’s High Five strategic priorities – Improve the Quality of Life for the people of Africa – recognises the need to train Africa’s youth for the jobs of today and the future.
Other speakers made presentations on the strategy and invited feedback on its goals and action plan from the participants, who included representatives of government ministries, departments and agencies from the 15 ECOWAS countries, development partners, civil society organizations, academia and the private sector.
According to a recent African Development Bank report on the fourth industrial revolution in Africa, automation will replace about 47% of current jobs by the year 2030. Disruption, digitalization and globalization are causing rapid changes to the education, skills and labour landscape. These changes highlight the growing gap between the current skill level of prospective workers in the region, and employer demand for relevant skills.
“In order to anticipate and prepare the resilience of our states to cope with all situations, it has proven important to take stock of the situation on human capital, define a strategy and an action plan for the region,” Finda Koroma, ECOWAS Commission Vice President, told attendees.
The ECOWAS strategy, being developed with support from consulting firm Ernst & Young Nigeria, focuses on education, skills development, and labour challenges and opportunities in the subregion. Feedback will be incorporated into the final report, which will present strategies and solutions for investing in human capital to accelerate development and economic prosperity.
Also at the forum were: ECOWAS Commissioner for Education, Science and Culture Professor Leopoldo Amado, ECOWAS Director for Education, Science and Culture Professor Abdoulaye Maga and Dr Sintiki Ugbe, ECOWAS Director, Humanitarian and Social Affairs.
The African Development Bank and the Government of Japan co-funded the ECOWAS Human Capital Strategy. The final version is expected to be published in June 2020.