The Skills Balancing Act in Sub-Saharan Africa

Investing in Skills for Productivity, Inclusivity, and Adaptability

; Indhira Santos ; David K. Evans

Nowhere in the world is skills building more vital than in Sub-Saharan Africa. While the region faces challenges similar to those faced by other regions at similar stages of development, its challenges are also unique. Les mer
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Nowhere in the world is skills building more vital than in Sub-Saharan Africa. While the region faces challenges similar to those faced by other regions at similar stages of development, its challenges are also unique. With economic, demographic, and technological changes, the world of work and production is rapidly changing. Multiple skills are needed in modernizing economies, including foundational cognitive and socio-emotional skills as well as technical skills. Yet, despite unprecedented progress getting more children into schools, Sub-Saharan African countries have significant gaps in skills formation. Child stunting rates remain stubbornly high and in most of the region there is a learning crisis. Skills investments in the region require a balancing act. Countries face hard choices to strike the right balance between investing in skills that meet the needs of today's highly informal and agrarian economies (e.g., basic skills to improve livelihoods) and investing in the skills needed to foster economic transformation (e.g., technical skills for catalytic sectors); and between investing in the skills for the current generation and in those for upcoming ones. While challenging, the region has opportunities for leap-frogging. There is today more rigorous evidence on interventions that work to improve learning, and Sub-Saharan Africa is often at the frontier of these innovations.

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