• Saturday, April 20, 2024
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Bold ambitions and uncertain paths in the African Union’s new ten-year development plan

Bold ambitions and uncertain paths in the African Union’s new ten-year development plan

The African Union (AU) has set a bold target of producing 100,000 PhDs from Africa over the next decade. The AU stated that twenty percent of the output should come from STEM fields.

The target is embedded in the Second Ten-Year Implementation Plan (STYIP) of the AU, focused on accelerating the implementation of the vision of “Africa We Want.”.

The AU’s Agenda 2063: Second Ten-Year Implementation Plan (2024-2033), or STYIP, was launched on February 13 with its development agency, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

AU hopes there will be a significant increase in enrolment rates in higher education across Africa in the university and technical and vocational education (TVE) sectors. It noted the lack of employability skills across African higher education but plans to reverse it.

“African education should significantly increase the focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; it also notes an enhanced role for the film, literature, theatre, music, and dance industries in creating jobs.”

African education should significantly increase the focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It also notes an enhanced role for the film, literature, theatre, music, and dance industries in creating jobs.

The AU set a further target of a ten percent contribution to global scientific research output by Africa from a base of merely one percent.

Read also: Nigeria missing among 11 African countries to lead 2024 global growth – AfBD

In the latest document released on 13 February 2024, the AU outlined seven goals or “moon shots” for the next ten years. They are:

1. Every AU Member State attains at least middle-income status.

2. Africa is more integrated and connected.

3. Public institutions are more responsive.

4. Africa resolves conflicts amicably.

5. African culture and values are explicit and promoted.

6. Africa’s citizens are more empowered and more productive.

7. Africa is a strong and influential global player.

To make education a pillar for African development in the next ten years, the African Union Commission underlined the need for enhanced internet connectivity to drive innovation and a 10 percent contribution to the global scientific research output as areas of improvement.

Current estimates are that Africa produces at most 30000 PhDs annually. According to the World Intellectual Property Organisation, Africa also ranks the lowest in research and patent output. Patents are an index of the capacity to convert intellectual property into viable products or services.

The African Union chairperson, H.E. President Azali Assoumai of the Union of Comoros, said in a foreword to the 76-page report that the AU was entering “A Decade of Acceleration.” He noted, “The first decade has been a decade of convergence. Africa is increasingly taking common positions on critical issues concerning the continent’s development. Regional economic commissions are getting stronger, and continental frameworks are increasingly becoming the guiding instruments for negotiation and action with bilateral and multilateral partners.”

The line “taking common positions on critical issues” sounded nice until three countries pulled out of ECOWAS recently. They have a position contrary to other countries’ views in the hitherto 16-nation bloc.

The second ten-year plan is part of Agenda 2063 of the African Union. H.E. President Allasane Quattara of Cote d’Ivoire is the Agenda 2063 Champion. The African Union Commission (AUC) is the implementation agency chaired by Moussa Faki Mohamat.

The AU envisions “an integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Africa, driven by its citizens and representing a global force in the global arena.”

AUC chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat stated the urgency of refocusing Africa’s aspirations. African nations must transform their higher education to focus on skill delivery and employability.

AUC urged African countries to increase their net enrolment rate for university education to about 50 percent and that of the technical and vocational sector to about 60 percent. It decried the situation whereby many students from African tertiary institutions leave school without getting the skills required for the workplace and urged African nations to revamp their curriculum.

It recommends that 40 percent of all African graduates come from STEM disciplines.

The AU’s Decade of Acceleration has promising prospects. These include accelerating development as it outlines concrete goals in critical areas like economic growth, infrastructural development, and poverty reduction.

The plan speaks of boosting intra-African trade by removing trade barriers and fostering regional integration to create a larger, more dynamic African market that attracts investment and promotes job creation.

Investing in human capital is a robust part of the plan. It focuses on education, healthcare, and skills development, with ambitious targets in STEM. Then, it prioritises conflict resolution and strengthening security institutions to create a more peaceful and stable environment conducive to growth.

Navigating the risks is the acid test. Transforming ambitious goals into concrete action, strong political will, efficient governance, and adequate financial resources by all 54 countries. We should follow the HR mantra about past performance as a predictor of potential. On that score, we worry.

The plan acknowledges climate change but lacks a comprehensive strategy to mitigate its impact, a critical concern for a continent already facing its consequences. Then there is the issue of external dependence. Curiously, the plan’s success hinges on attracting foreign investment, raising concerns about potential neo-colonial influences, and ensuring benefits reach African communities.

The AU’s ten-year plan presents a crucial opportunity for Africa, but realising its potential requires a multi-pronged approach. The first is instituting robust mechanisms to ensure transparency in resource allocation and hold leaders accountable for achieving stated goals. African nations must invest more in strengthening institutions, combating corruption, and promoting citizen participation for effective implementation and long-term success. There must be a partnership between African governments, civil society, and the private sector to leverage their synergies.