African countries face a formidable challenge in obtaining the skilled resources needed to develop infrastructure, drive economic growth and reduce unemployment.
“The countries likely to be most affected by the skills shortage are those on the cusp of new exploitation of local resources,” says Mlamuli Delani Mthembu, managing director of Landelahni Leadership Development.
“Africa is entering a golden age of gas. East Africa is the growth engine for natural gas on the continent, while the extraction of large shale gas reserves in South Africa is on the horizon. On the West Coast, oil-rich Nigeria and Angola are also experiencing fast growth.
Demand for infrastructure-specific skill sets
“More broadly, there is a demand for infrastructure, driven by rising populations and rapid urbanisation. Expenditure on projects such as electricity, water, information and telecommunications technology, and transport and logistics is expected to reach more than US$1-trillion over the next 10 years, drawing skilled resources from all over the globe.”
Mthembu believes demand will continue to be greatest for professionals such as engineers, as well as technicians, artisans, project managers and information technology and telecoms specialists.
Education is the basis for the critical science, engineering and technology skills needed to support mining, oil and gas, telecommunications and other industries. It is a building block of any economy.
We cannot increase university graduates in technical subjects unless we have an effective education system in place.
Rapid changes in technology requires constant up-skilling
“In the workplace, technological advancements are causing rapid skills obsolescence. The rate at which technology is developing requires constant investment and up-skilling across workforces.
"It creates the paradox of high unemployment among the unskilled and semi-skilled against a shortage of skilled professionals.”
There are currently more than 300,000 highly qualified Africans in the diaspora, 30 000 of whom have PhDs, according to UNESCO. More African engineers work in the USA than in the whole of Africa. The effect of this brain drain on Africa is enormous.
Recruiting from the local pool
“Let’s focus our energy on the Africa diaspora,” says Mthembu. “Instead of paying huge amounts to expats, let’s recruit from the vast pool of equally qualified and experienced African professionals living and working outside Africa.”
“There is no quick fix for talent shortages. A stable political climate, a growing economy and sound governance will attract investors and multinationals. This demands a multi-pronged approach by all parties – educational institutions, business and government.”
According to the 2012 KMPG Global Construction Survey, new infrastructure projects are expected to be on a large scale, so size and global reach will matter.
With scale comes complexity as global players navigate tough political, commercial, regulatory and governance environments.