Making University Relevant for the African Labour Market
If African countries are to develop, they need highly skilled local professionals, especially in core technologies. In Burkina Faso, the International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering (2iE) provides training that gives executives skills to meet key African economic development challenges.
The 2011 Economic Report on Africa predicts a steady growth of African economies. The Report announced a 5 percent increase in the growth rate for the continent this year compared to the 4.7 percent recorded in 2010, bringing Africa much closer to its pre-crisis trend in growth rates.
While African economies are growing quickly, a stumbling block for investment policies remains the lack of qualified personnel to maintain and pursue their development.
In Burkina Faso, the International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering (2iE) is rising to the challenge of training highly qualified engineers from all over the African continent and tailoring the training to the needs of local and regional economies.
Based in Ouagadougou, the 2iE is a bilingual education and research institution in the fields of Water, Environment, Energy and Engineering, which are all political, economic and social priorities in sub-Saharan Africa. The 2iE is regarded as a centre of excellence in the African continent, and engineering diplomas given by 2iE are the first, among African nations, to be recognized internationally.
"The education we deliver at the 2iE is in close connection with the realities on the ground. We work in close cooperation with the private sector and we constantly adapt our teaching to this sector's needs in order to make sure the engineers we train are ready and bring an added-value to the development of these companies", explains Francis Sempore, Head of 2iE's E-learning and Continuing Education Department. "As a result, 100% of the engineers we have trained found a job the year after leaving 2iE."
Following an audit carried out in 2005, substantial reforms were undertaken to make 2iE more relevant to the labour market. Today, 2iE is a public utility organisation, a truly efficient public-private partnership. Its original and modern governing board includes 16 African States, international institutions and financing partners, high level scientific and academic partners as well as private sector representatives.
Through these partnerships with colleges and institutions from all over the world, 2iE combines and transfers skills and technological innovation from North to South. Research focuses on “post-oil” solar energy, bio-fuels, eco-materials, water management and environment, all of which are sectors of growth, capable of generating significant employment and income for African societies.
"The 2iE example proves it is possible to provide international quality education in Africa", adds Francis Sempore. "It provides us with highly skilled professionals, generating wealth and supporting the growth of the African economy".
Quality higher education institutions such as 2iE can indeed become significant actors for change and development, provided that they offer guarantees in terms of quality and prepare students for a competitive job market. Mainstreaming these guarantees requires an active participation of all stakeholders, ranging from public authorities to international organisations and the private sector.
By building up local capacity in Africa, 2iE is striving not only to reduce the brain drain, but also to reverse it.
According to 2iE, by sending students to Ouagadougou, where quality of education is accredited internationally (EUR ACE label obtained), instead of Europe, the number of students trained can be multiplied by four. In addition, over half of African students who travel to Europe for their education take up employment there instead of returning to their home countries, thereby increasing the brain drain. Francis Sempore highlights the difference with the 2iE experience which actually builds local capacity in Africa, noting that "a study carried out based on a sample of around 600 2iE graduates revealed that 97% of them work in Africa."