Thinking TVET development in Africa

By Nkululeko Makhubu

October 2017, Madagascar, in collective agreement that education as key to sustainable development in Africa, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Culture Organisation (UNESCO) Better Education for Africa’s Rise (BEAR), UNESCO’s project promoting skills development and youth employment in Africa, is now transitioning to its second phase, BEAR II, which will be implemented from 2017 to 2021.

Five Eastern African countries which will now be reviewed – Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, the United Republic of Tanzania and Uganda – will benefit from this second phase of the project. They will receive technical assistance from UNESCO and international experts with the financial support of the Republic of Korea.

It seems Asia-Africa relationships for development has become increasingly popular than development via the West. Perhaps this project is a good case to now asses a year later how Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) are developing.



A developing state with a huge 102,403,196 population according to a 2016 Census. There are two countries in Africa which are considered by some scholars to never have been colonized: Liberia and more notably Ethiopia.

It’s about time that sustainable development yields for the most populous landlocked country (a sovereign state entirely enclosed by land, whose only coastlines lie on closed seas) in the world and the second-most populous nation on the African continent.

According to All Africa researcher Tsegaye Tilahun, Ethiopia can benefit hugely from linking its TVET program with its industries as experts contend that such linkage improves manpower competency and industries’ productivity.

He concludes “consensus now is to utilize problem-solving industry linkages to improve the economy. Every year several technologies are copied and transferred to small and medium enterprises. Products that are produced by small and medium scale enterprises are also copied and transferred by TVET institutions to small and medium manufacturing institutions” along the Horn of Africa.

As a long-term higher education strategy, “producing competent manpower, TVET-industry linkage help the country become competent internationally, says Sewasew Enyew, an Industry Extension Technology Transfer Team Leader at Technical Vocational Education and Training Agency.



The state declared Independence from the United Kingdom on 12 December 1963 has several ethnic disperses. Although Kenya is the biggest and most advanced economy in east and central Africa, and has an affluent urban minority, it has a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.519, ranked 145 out of 186 in the world. As of 2005, 17.7% of Kenyans lived on less than $1.25 a day.

According to Phyllis Wakiaga, CEO of Kenya Association of Manufacturers, the TVET ACT 2013 was designed to address the job skills issue and, more so, to ensure an increased and sustained enrolment ratio of 20% by the year 2030. A move by the Kenyan Government to revamp their entire education system with a view of making the lives of our youth better.

She concludes, “investing in TVETs is not just about providing a few opportunities for some, TVETs are the only sure way to secure the future of this country, guaranteeing long term productivity, economic sustainability and inclusive growth”.



The fourth largest island in the world, Madagascar belongs to the group of least developed countries, according to the United Nations. Malagasy and French are both official languages of the state .

Under long rule of Ratsiraka who was in power from 1975 to 2001, failed to achieve significant improvements in education throughout his tenure.

The Malgachization Policy, coincided with a severe economic downturn and a dramatic decline in the quality of education.

Those schooled during this period generally failed to master the French language or many other subjects and struggled to find employment, forcing many to take low-paying jobs in the informal or black market that mired them in deepening poverty.

Public expenditure on education was 13.4 percent of total government expenditure and 2.9 percent of GDP in 2008. Primary classrooms are crowded, with average pupil to teacher ratios of 47:1 in 2008 says Trading Economics.

Their University landscape needs funding and development too. Since 1988, all branches of the system became independent of each other, and the name University of Madagascar was dropped in favor of more geography-specific titles, TVET development thus being a more viable higher education investment for now.

During the 2017 BEAR ii workshop, UNESCO proposed that the textile industry be the lead sector for the project in Madagascar, following lengthy consultations with country experts. The consultations revealed that the textile industry is a part of Madagascar’s five strategic sectors, but is the only one that has not attracted the support of any international projects.

“With high potential for creating formal employment, the choice of the sector is expected to provide a positive impact on socio-economic development in the country,” said Madagascar’s Secretary-General of the National Ministry of Employment, Technical Education and Vocational Training, Georges Rakotonirainy.


In the United Republic of Tanzania

From 2009 through 2013, According to the World Bank, Tanzania’s per capita GDP (based on constant local currency) grew an average of 3.5% per year, higher than any other member of the East African Community. It’s fair to say that growth is based mainly on export revenue which like most African economies, sadly is higher than import revenue atop IMF and World Bank loan debt.

According to the paper Relevance of TVET market demands: Skills for Employability, by Manyaga and Athumani: “One of the most important features of TVET is its orientation towards the world of work and the emphasis of the curriculum on the acquisition of employable skills. TVET delivery systems are well placed to train the skilled and entrepreneurial workforce that Tanzania needs to create wealth and emerge out of poverty.”

The authors concluded that “TVET curricula should provide different orientation to meet the skills needs of the modern sector and those needed for poverty reduction. Alleviating poverty through the acquisition of basic employable skills without ignoring high-tech skills needed for global competition”.


Then lastly Uganda:

Their Ministry of Sport and Education reports, “The World Bank funded, Uganda Skills Development Project (USDP) worth US $100M is one of the options the Government of Uganda initiated to operationalize the BTVET strategic Plan. USDP is a five (5) year project, which was approved in April 2015 and became effective in October 2016. USDP targets enabling programmes to meet skills needs in key priority sectors of the economy i.e. Agriculture, Construction and Manufacturing, in line with Uganda’s National Development Plan (NDPII) as well as Vision 2040.”

The Bank of Uganda reports that the state has largely untapped reserves of both crude oil and natural gas. While agriculture accounted for 56 percent of the economy in 1986, with coffee as its main export, it has now been surpassed by the services sector, which accounted for 52 percent of GDP in 2007.



From Assessment to Planning: Hope for TVET in Uganda reports: much like the above mentioned states, the landlocked country has much economic potential, the median age in Africa is the 19.4 years old, the youngest in the world. Not to mention having rich minerals, untouched markets and cultural dynamics. These factors lends valid reason to look ahead, optimistically through short term investment in TVET.

One of the major obstacles facing the implementation of TVET programming in post-conflict situations is a lack of data on the needs and skills of the target population. In terms of a strict concentration on the ability of TVET programming to improve the skill-set and employability of participants, this lack of data poses the problem of leading to a mismatch between TVET and the contextual economic opportunities.

The BEAR ii project, according to UNESCO will be implemented in the five above mentioned beneficiary countries over a period of five years from 2017-21 in three phases: formulation phase (2017); inception and implementation phase (2017-20); and closure and scale-up (2020-21).



Southern Africa. In: UNESCO Science Report: towards 2030

Manyaga and Athumani (2010). Relevance of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) to market demands: Skills for Employability: Paper presented to the JOINT EDUCATION SECTOR ANNUAL REVIEW 2010, 30 September 2010. Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania

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