Speakers at a side event of the 33rd African Union (AU) summit in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa have lauded the latest report of the African Development Bank (AfDB), themed "Developing Africa's workforce for the future," emphasizing on more investment in human capital and infrastructure.
The 2020 edition of the Bank's flagship report African Economic Outlook (AEO), which was launched few days back at AfDB headquarters in Abidjan, calls for swift action to address human capital development in African countries, where the quantity and quality of human capital is much lower than in other regions of the world.
As side events and pre-summit sessions are being held ahead of the session of the AU heads of states slated to take place from Feb. 9 to 10 at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, the AfDB has co-hosted, with the AU, an event presenting the latest edition of AEO.
The 2020 AEO noted the urgent need for capacity building and offers several policy recommendations, which include that states invest more in education and infrastructure to reap the highest returns in long-term gross domestic product (GDP) growth. Developing a demand-driven productive workforce to meet industry needs, is another essential requirement.
The AU Commissioner for Economic Affairs, Victor Harison, observed that the report tackled the challenges of human capital development "from a different perspective and focusing on the development of Africa's workforce for the future through the prism of education, skills and infrastructure."
"The facts mentioned in the second part of this report are striking," he said, adding, it reminds us of the size of the investment that must be made in the development of human capital in Africa, an essential component for achieving productive transformation," the Commissioner told the high-level meeting.
The AfDB Secretary General, Vincent Nmehielle, said the AEO had become the blueprint for planning and for sound economic research about the continent.
"The question then is: why are we presenting the report at the African Union? This is where Africa's socio-economic policy and political decisions are made. It is therefore important that heads of state know the key policy recommendations for the year," he said.
The report underlined that Africa needs to build skills in information and communication technology and in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), noting that the Fourth Industrial Revolution will place increasing demands on educational systems that are producing graduates versed in these skills.
To keep the current level of unemployment constant, Africa needs to create 12 million jobs every year, according to the report. With rapid technological change expected to disrupt labor markets further, it is urgent that countries address fundamental bottlenecks to creating human capital, the report said.
The Chief Economist at the African Export-Import Bank, Hippolyte Fofack, said the 2020 AEO is timely because the skills to develop African economies are not yet developed, underlining on the importance of skills and youth entrepreneurship capacity to the success of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
"If the recommendations in the report are implemented, there is no stopping the continent," said Caleb Meakins, social entrepreneur, global campaigner against poverty and TedX speaker.
The AfDB Director of Macroeconomic Forecasting and Research, Hanan Morsy, said education was essential to fight poverty and inequality.
"Investing in both education and infrastructure offers a greater growth payoff than investing exclusively in either. Working together, we can achieve it," she said.
Released annually since 2003, AEO provides compelling up-to-date evidence and analytics to inform and support African decision makers XINHUA