In Africa, the transformation of vocational training is underway

08 May 2021


In Senegal, three apprentices in a vocational training centre for construction and public works.

Young people aged 15-24 represent 20% of the African population but over 40% of those who are unemployed. Technical and vocational education and training (TVET) has an important role to play in promoting their integration into the labour market and in combating poverty. In this context, TVET systems are undergoing a transition across Africa, as highlighted by some important synergies and innovative practices supported by IIEP-UNESCO. 

Improving the match between vocational training offers and employer demand is a major challenge in Africa.  In a context where the informal economy is prevalent and the labour market is highly volatile, the mismatch between available skills and the needs of the economy is an obstacle for employment and growth. This employability issue is even more important as the continent will see at least one hundred million young people entering the labour market by 2030 due to the demographic boom. 

Therefore, national TVET systems must be transformed to become more agile. This is one of the priorities of IIEP-UNESCO Dakar. Through its Platform of Expertise in Vocational Training (PEFOP), the Institute provides support to African countries by capitalizing on field experiences and good practices in the sector. 

Sharing resources and tools

Faced with the common problem of the professional integration of young people, the eight member countries of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) are joining forces (Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Togo). Since 2017, their Ministries in charge of vocational training have been sharing the curricula of their TVET programmes and professional reference frameworks. They also provide their counterparts with pedagogical content or documents describing their governance methods. The aim is to enable each of them to draw inspiration from them and, if necessary, to adapt them to national needs.  

Developed with the support of IIEP-UNESCO Dakar, this Platform for the Mutualization of Vocational Training Tools and Resources has a web portal (in French only). It includes, for example, Benin's reference framework for the training of solar electricity installers, or Senegal's methodological guide for developing training programmes using the competency-based approach. Members can access hundreds of other useful resources for structuring and renovating TVET systems. The UEMOA countries have since been joined by Chad, with the ambition of involving other countries of the continent in this regional sharing dynamic.

"We encourage regional approaches to the planning and management of technical and vocational education and training in Africa. The UEMOA pooling platform is a good example of this dynamic. It is an asset for strengthening vocational education and training provision and systems. The initiative has proven to be a useful strategic response to the pandemic."

Naceur Chraiti, TVET Programme Manager, IIEP-UNESCO Dakar

Digitizing TVET

In March 2021, UNESCO and the African Union launched the Pan-African Initiative for the Digital Transformation of TVET and Skills Development Systems in Africa in March 2021. Through several complementary actions, including the creation of national networks and a pan-African training programme, this initiative seeks to equip stakeholders in the sector to make the digital shift.

TVET: Why is digital so important?

Often based on practice and the acquisition of technical skills, TVET courses do not seem to have a direct link with the digital world at first glance. And yet, this issue is crucial, both in terms of learning methods and digital skills.

  • On the one hand, the digitization of training content and learning environments makes it possible to respond to the need for distance learning, which has accelerated in the pandemic context. Beyond the health issues, digital technology also appears as a solution for gaining responsiveness in the deployment and updating of training offers. It is also a lever for widening access and promoting lifelong learning opportunities, in line with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal 4.

  • On the other hand, apprentices and learners must acquire basic digital skills, which will soon be essential in most professions. This is because technological developments are now based on the automation of production processes or new digital uses. Therefore, TVET systems in Africa must adapt to this new situation by contributing to digital literacy and the necessary increase in digital skills of the continent's populations. 

While digitization is an important step for the vocational training sector, there are still many obstacles, particularly in terms of learners equipment or Internet access. Associated with this pan-African initiative, IIEP Dakar will be carrying out an inventory of the digitalization of TVET in Africa. 

Furthermore, in order to help African countries manage TVET during the pandemic, the Institute is also collecting and analyzing good practices initiated by public and private actors. They could inspire and strengthen future policies in terms of management and planning of the sector. Many of these initiatives are directly related to the challenges of digitization.  

What is the Platform of Expertise in Vocational Training?

Since 2015, IIEP-UNESCO Dakar has been working to strengthen the capacities of technical and vocational education and training stakeholders in Africa through a Platform of Expertise in Vocational Training. This programme is supported by a thematic web portal, which aims to share sector news, resources and good practices.