Academic institutions and private sector companies in the East African Community (EAC) have been urged to develop strong partnerships to deliver graduates with skills that can empower them to compete for job opportunities across the seven-member region.
Speaking at the 12th Academia-Public-Private Partnership Forum (APPPF) and Exhibition in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the Tanzanian Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Prof. Adolf Faustine Mkenda, recently noted that educational institutions and the private sector in the EAC economic bloc must collaborate when it comes to developing human capital skills: “Education institutions and the private sector must work together to produce market-driven programs that respond to the dynamic needs of the labor market and train graduates who are relevant for the socio-economic development of our region,” said the minister. He added that well-trained human capital is crucial to the region’s economic development.
Dr. Irene Isaka, the Director for Social Sectors of the East African Community (EAC), representing EAC Secretary General Dr Peter Mathuki, at the same event urged academic institutions to develop curricula together with the private sector that match the demands of the labor market in the region and the rest of the world as a whole. “I would encourage you to continue working together to continuously review and adapt your curriculum to stay in line with the region’s current development agenda and labor market requirements,” said Dr. Isaac.
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Speaking on behalf of the Interuniversity Council of East Africa (IUCEA), Executive Secretary Prof. Gaspard Banyankimbona noted that skills necessary for employability success require close collaboration between the private sector and higher education institutions to keep pace with the changing demands of the world of work. “The reality of artificial intelligence and machine learning demonstrates the need to constantly review and adapt our training to develop learners who can adapt to changing demands in the labor market. Some of the skills taught today in our various learning ecosystems are obsolete even before students graduate. Therefore, only through strong partnerships between academia and the private sector can we identify the skills needed for future success in the job market,” explains Prof. Banyankimbona.
The meeting in Tanzania was attended by participants from development partners and the private sector, led by the East African Business Council in addition to academia.
Johannes Sperrfechter, the head of regional development cooperation at the German embassy, on behalf of the ambassador Dr. Regine Hess, said their government is determined to support the region with some money to ensure the business develops. “The German government is committed to providing an additional 2.5 million euros to the (email-secured) project to strengthen support and initiatives in the master’s program, digital skills training and entrepreneurship support. IUCEAA and GIZ will sign their implementation agreement at this conference on Friday,” he said.
The Chief Executive Officer of the East African Business Council (EABC), John Bosco Kalisa, said vocational education should be promoted in the region. “To achieve higher productivity, countries should focus on demand-driven technical and vocational education, entrepreneurship and business training programs related to sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) disciplines require special attention focused on technology transfer and adoption,” he said.
The APPPF is a biennial forum that brings together universities, technical and vocational colleges, entrepreneurs, policy makers and the private sector to discuss how to promote shared dialogue and strengthen the link between the private sector and higher education institutions.