By Paul Ndiho
Human resources development has been identified as the single most important strategic capital for the African continent. Organizations like the African Capacity Building Foundation, the African Union’s specialized agency for capacity development, has set up formidable goals to achieve through advanced training and research in science and technology.
A World Bank survey says Sub-Saharan Africa’s growth is projected to reach 3.1 percent in 2018, and to average 3.6 percent in 2019 and 20. This moderate growth upswing nonetheless remains uneven, with considerable variation across countries. But could the investment in human resources be the answer?
The African University of Science and Technology, Nelson Mandela Research Institute for excellence on science and technology in Africa is leading the way with a particular focus on right areas, according to a top official at the African Capacity Building Foundation.
“Science, technology, engineering, and Mathematics are the areas Africa has to pay attention regarding building skills. But also deals with having some technical and vocational training capacities are needed. Whether it’s to promote agricultural development, or to really add value to the continent’s natural resources, or to be able to propel the kind of manufacturing jobs that are needed to create massive numbers of young people on the continent.”
Created in 2007, the African University of Science and Technology is grooming Africa’s top young scientists and engineers to make an impact in their respective fields.
“AUST is one of the few institutions created in Africa over the last twenty years to address the challenges for development in Africa. Which is the adequacy of skills in science, engineering, and technology? And the number of engineers you have in your population is not a very widely used indicator of the potential of the country for innovation and development.”
The Africa capacity foundation supports some students at the Masters and Ph.D. levels, and the impact of that is exceptionally high particularly for young women in the field of science and technology. Since inception, more than 38 Ph.D. students and 26 young women have completed Masters Degrees in Science and Technology — and they’re now offering smart solutions to African problems as part of a human resource development program. Joy Olayiwola studied for her Masters in Computer Science and is one of the beneficiaries of the program.
“In my spare time, I volunteer in STEM programs. STEM being science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. This is a scheme that has been designed to empower the girl children in learning sciences.”
Musibau Francis, a Ph.D. student, has also benefited from the funding.
“I couldn’t have afforded tuition and the cost of schooling in a prestigious institution like this, so the ACBF Scholarship came, and I was offered to fund. The funding has greatly helped me to advance at this point in life. I have always loved to be an academic with active involvement in research and knowledge transfer, as well as mentoring young Africans.”
Analysts say Africa needs improved governance to succeed with its ambition for transformation, but it can only do this by narrowing the vast skills deficit it has in areas such as engineering, agricultural researchers and the number of scientists needed to tackle Africa’s infrastructure problems.