Youth are Africa’s greatest asset. Africa’s youth population is rapidly growing and expected to double to over 830 million by 2050. If properly harnessed, this increase in the working age population could support increased productivity and stronger, more inclusive economic growth across the continent. However, today, majority of youth in Africa do not have stable economic opportunities. Of Africa’s nearly 420 million youth aged 15-35, one-third are unemployed and discouraged, another third is vulnerably employed, and only one in six is in wage employment.
In addition to high levels of unemployment and underemployment, Africa’s youth are confronted with multiple challenges ranging from mixed growth economies lacking job creation capability for its rapidly growing populations, to the global financial and economic crisis. Africa is the only region where the youth bulge will continue to grow in the foreseeable future. This presents both an opportunity to reap the demographic dividend and an imminent time bomb threatening social cohesion in the absence of appropriate policies to harness this dividend coupled with massive migration in search of opportunities.
Given the dire economic situation and uncertainty across the continent, it is critical to explore alternatives and potential solutions to improve the employment situation. The quest for solutions has triggered a renewed focus on the higher education landscape. Higher Education Institutions are producing graduates with limited skills and require further training to meet workplace/ employer needs. While graduates need to be more employable, universities also “need to produce job creators instead of job seekers. Universities are gravitating towards innovation and entrepreneurship as exploratory solutions to the youth employability issue.
Beyond providing a platform for learning, training and the transfer of knowledge, Universities have the potential to contribute as potential catalysts for change and drivers of economic growth in their various communities. Through their academic programmes, universities can provide graduates with knowledge and skills to contribute to growth of new and existing companies. In addition, universities can foster and support the creation of new ideas, innovation, and commercialisation. They also have an important role to provide research into entrepreneurship and growth of small to medium enterprises (SMEs).
Our Response – The Project
The fundamental purpose of universities is to create an environment where students are encouraged to pursue and embrace opportunities, explore new ideas, take intellectual risks and begin the process of becoming researchers and innovators of tomorrow
In response to this need, the British Council has developed and designed a project to foster the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship within Higher Education Institutions and facilitate the development of skills required to build industries, companies and products
The Innovation for African Universities project is designed to support the development of Africa – UK HE Partnerships to build institutional capacity for HE engagement in entrepreneurship ecosystems in selected African cities.
IAU is a learning and collaboration platform which brings together Higher Education Institutions in the UK and SSA to engage, interact and learn from one another, with the aim of developing mutually beneficial partnerships that strengthen the capacity and capability of Higher Education systems in both locations.
This overarching project objective is to strengthen the capacity of Higher Education Institutions and increase their capability to participate and provide meaningful contributions as key players within the entrepreneurship ecosystems. The desired results and impact from the partnerships include a strengthened entrepreneurship ecosystem and improved support for young people seeking to develop job creation entities and sustainable enterprises
The programme's specific objectives are to:
- Increase the employability of students and their capacity to create jobs
- Strengthen HEIs with the knowledge, skills and capability to support students learning and employability ambitions and improve their outcomes
- Bridge the existing gap between HEIs and industry, foster the development of relationships which will ensure that future institutional outputs (research and skills) will be tailored more in line with workplace and community needs
- Support the development of long-term partnerships centred on entrepreneurship and innovation between UK and SSA Institutions established with ongoing exchanges of knowledge, know-how and practice.
South Africa IAU Projects
The South Africa partnership network is made up of a total of 36 partners representing 9 projects that include 9 South African public universities. A Centre of Excellence comprising tripartite partners, City University of London, University of Nairobi, and the Change School provides support to the network. This includes building an international community, promoting the exchange of knowledge, and building institutional capability.