Items filtered by date: Monday, 20 March 2017

Africa lacks a critical mass of skilled labor because of low access to, and high dropouts from education systems. Only about one third of children are in secondary school, and just over one in ten have access to higher education, compared to rates three times as high in other developing countries. Indeed, half of the children of primary and lower secondary school age who are not in school, are in Africa. This represents a total of 60 million youths. This is indeed a serious threat to social cohesion and labor force productivity of the future. The question is what to do about it.

Every three years the great and the good working on African education and training come together at the meeting of the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), the latest was held  in Dakar, Senegal. The theme of the meeting is “revitalizing education towards the 2030 Global Agenda and Africa’s Agenda 2063”. Participants come together to share their thoughts and experiences in education, aimed at improving policies and activities, and mapping out the ways we can work together to achieve better outcomes.

Progress is being made around the continent, but systems are not being revamped quickly enough to prepare Africa’s young people for a dynamic future. It is true that access to education is indeed improving. In fact, over the past fifteen years, Africa has halved the number of primary school aged children who do not currently attend school, and has also made strides in getting more young people into secondary school and higher education. There has also been an increase in vocational school attendees, reaching nearly 25% attendance. Yet more needs to be done to ensure the African education systems successfully support economic transformation. Most African education systems face a triple crisis: scarce human capital, low quality and poor inclusion, and a lack of alignment with private sector needs.

The quality shortcomings are reflected in the students’ lack of foundational skills and critical competencies: about a third of primary school dropouts can neither read nor write. Global employers rate soft skills as highly as they rate technical skills, yet African classrooms are mostly teacher-directed, and provide very few opportunities for students to develop these skills. In addition, Africa also faces inclusion challenges (gender, spatial, income). Gender disparities, for example, increase from primary school to higher education.

Available skills and competencies do not sufficiently respond to the needs of the job market. For example, vocational programs tend to be rigid and cannot adapt quickly enough to labor market needs; including the informal sector. There are too few scientists and engineers in sectors that drive African economic transformation. These systemic weaknesses are contributing to high unemployment, particularly among the young.

The state of affairs would be of concern in a static environment, but this is far from the case. We are at the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution, with the convergence of new technologies such as ICT, artificial intelligence, and robotics entirely transforming economies as well as massively increasing the pace of change. And while Africa has the potential to leapfrog over the shortcomings prevalent in advanced economies, several countries on the continent are missing out on this opportunity by underinvesting in science, technology, and research and development. Research and development spending is extremely low and there is a lack of qualified researchers. Only five African universities are among the top 500 universities globally. That translates into an inability of African economies to transform their raw materials into high-end finished products that can compete in global markets.

Better education and training will not come for free, particularly given the large numbers of young people reaching school age. The African Development Bank is working hard to contribute to better educational outcomes on the continent, with a strong focus in recent years on higher education, science, and technology. These investments will enable African economies to grow significantly and leapfrog into higher value added production. Our work aims to build skills and promote technologies for better jobs, equal opportunities, and workforce competitiveness.

We are rolling out two major flagship programs aimed at making progress in these areas. The first flagship is called “Rethinking Education and Learning for Africa’s Transformation”, and it aims to help African countries take a holistic approach toward their education systems, and get better value for money from education expenditures to produce the skilled graduates needed for national development. Policy dialogues with governments will be combined with technical assistance and necessary financial support to help achieve this goal.

The second flagship program is called: “Boosting Science, Technology and Innovation in African Countries.” This aims to ensure that Africa is not to be left behind by the fourth industrial revolution. This program will be anchored in priority sectors such as agriculture, energy, ICT, infrastructure, pharmaceuticals, nutrition, and Green and Blue economies. This can be done through national innovation systems, entrepreneurship schemes, and incubators, and will promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education; especially for women. The AfDB will also increase support for converting existing research and innovations into marketable products and services, while ensuring that the intellectual property rights of African researchers and innovators are protected.

Given that ultimately one of the major goals of education and training systems is to foster employment, our efforts do not stop at the classroom. As a response to the dire youth employment challenge in Africa, the Bank’s Jobs for Youth Strategy aims to directly create 25 million jobs and empower 50 million youth with job related skills, especially in agriculture, industry, and ICT. This will be done through our various projects.

Given the increasing emphasis being placed on adapted education and employment by so many of Africa’s leaders, the discussions this week in Dakar with senior government officials, development partners, companies and civil society organizations, will help us all to collectively move ahead to future proof Africa’s education and training systems for the skills and jobs not just needed for today, but for years to come.

By Jennifer Blanke, Vice-President, Agriculture, Human and Social Development, AfDB
Etienne Porgo, Manager, Human and Social Development Department, AfDB
Borel Anicet Foko Tagne, Education Economist, Human and Social Development

Source: Jennifer Blanke/

Published in Economy

UK telecoms giant Vodafone has merged its Indian business with Idea Cellular, India's third-largest network, to create the country's largest operator.

The combined company will have almost 400 million customers, accounting for 35% of the market share, the firms said in a statement.

The announcement ends months of speculation over an impending deal.

Analysts say the merger was to fend off competition from a new operator - Reliance Jio.

Owned by the country's richest man, Mukesh Ambani, Jio has forced Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, together with current market leader Bharti Airtel, to cut prices.

Shares in Idea rose almost 4% in Mumbai following the announcement of the deal.

India's leading mobile networks are embroiled in what analysts have described as "a vicious price war", started by the arrival of Jio.

More than 10 telecom operators are battling it out to try and attract India's one billion mobile phone users.

That has forced firms to keep tariffs low - significantly impacting their profitability.

Source: BBC

Published in Telecoms

South Africa’s enviable position as a world class wine industry was and still not achieved on a silver platter.

Critically acclaimed iconic white and red wines with rich history and passion passed down from generations of Dutch, French, German, English, and Portuguese settlers have been religiously preserved and improved through dedication and tedious labour from farmhands to master winemakers.

Kevin Arnold of Waterford Wine Estate, Philip Jonker of Weltevrede Family Wine Estates, Petrus Bosman of Bosman Wine Estate are true examples of passionate, traditional, and world-class winemakers in South Africa.

The official Industry regulator,the South Africa Wine and Spirit Board defines the regulations whereas the laws are enforced by South Africa Wine Industry Information and Systems (SAWIS) making the industry one of the most highly regulated and monitored systems in the ‘New World Countries’.

These regulations demand a lot of studious processes and work from the winemakers, all year round at the same time catering to the high demand of wine tourists from Europe, USA, Canada, Australia and beyond.

The craftsmanship and passion is undeniably the epitome of true hospitality for any wine tourist to South Africa as the winemakers still accommodate and infuse a tourism experience into their profession especially during the peak harvest season between middle February to early April each year.

This is only an experience out of many others of how South Africa’s winemakers and the entire wine growing region of Western Cape, taking a wine tourist through the process of nurturing the vines during the winter, harvesting the grapes, crushing, and pressing them, fermenting, clarification, ageing and then bottling during the summer.

As a member of a media team that embarked on a trip down south from Ghana, organised by Wines of South Africa (WOSA) in partnership with Jon Williams Consult, a communications firm, sponsored by South African Airways, we were taken through the process of making wine from where it all begins before it gets to the dinner table.

The group, made up of print, radio, television and online journalists and bloggers marvelled at the attention to detail paid by the workers who either picked grapes, operate the machines that crushed the grapes, cellarmasters or winemakers and executives who market the products.

Ghana, best known to produce about 1million tonnes of cocoa annually can easily learn from the South Africa experience with wine and transform the cocoa production process into a mega tourism venture that could be generating billions in much needed foreign exchange.

Our arrival in Cape Town with South African Airways flight at Cape Town International Airport, we were met with a charming smile from a gentleman, called Aaron, who was appointed by WOSA as one of our chauffeurs.

The immersion of history of the wine industry began immediately on the coach bus ride with Aaron who delighted us with rich history of South African wines on our half hour drive to the beautiful wine town of Stellenbosch, the university town and heart of South Africa’s winelands.

Inside J.C. Le Roux

Upon arrival at the historic Dutch architecture styled Stellenbosch Hotel, we quickly changed for our premier wine tasting event at the House of J.C Le Reux, the first and leading cellar dedicated entirely to the art of making sparkling wine in South Africa also known on the international market as Method Cap Classique (MCC), the South African version of Champagne.

Upstairs at J.C Le Roux, the stunning open floor bespoke restaurant welcomed us to a palatial lunch and wine tasting in the company of our host team from the office of Wines of South Africa, led by Matome Mbatha, the Market Manager for Africa and Maryna Strachan, Communications Manager.

The cellar tour after lunch educated the team on the passion, craftsmanship and expertise employed in making the finest vintage Methode Cap Classique in the time-honoured French style, and fun loving sparkling wines to suit every palate.

The crescendo of the wine tasting is the surprise pairings offered at every wine estate we visited beginning from J.C. Leroux where chocolates are the best pairings offered with wine tastings.

First dinner at Waterford with Kelvin

Waterford Wine Estate has a special welcome for all visitors with a grand driveway between canopy of trees and through citrus plants with water fountain dancing to the rhythms of the cascading valleys around. Momentarily, you may feel like a special VVIP guest arriving to a destination wedding location in Tuscany, though not farfetched.

The spectacular scenery with cool breeze and pleasant tranquillity was only interrupted by the warm welcome of the master winemaker, Kevin Arnold. Kevin then took us on a tour of the cellar, where we learnt about the intricacies of making wine.

At the end of the tour, we did an extensive tasting of the red and white wines and how each offers a unique flavour and taste that makes one appreciate the essence of wine on your palates and boy we did enjoy every bit.  The absence of an in-house restaurant did not dissuade our host Kevin to surprise us with a lavish three course dinner with gluttonous portions of lasagne, garden salads and home-made pasta.

Definitely, we ended our dinner with a delirious taste of Waterford Sauvignon Blanc Elgin 2014 Vintage and Waterford Elgin Pinot Noir 2014.

The journey to Robertson Valley

The next day, we embarked on a two and half hour journey from Stellenbosch to the Robertson Wine Valley. On our way, which by the way was on some of the best roads, we passed through the Huguenot Tunnel, a toll tunnel that extends the N1 national road through the DuToitskloof mountains.

And that breakfast experience at Le Roux &Fourie

After the tunnel, we took a detour and entered Robertson with our first stop at the Le Roux & Fourie Wine Club, for a great breakfast. With the majestic Langeberg Mountains in the background, we experienced the Flag 'n’ Wine World, a specially designed flag labyrinth with more than 220 flags to learn about and pry for nations and to explore world geography in a classroom without walls!

It was after breakfast that we were split into two groups and we respectively went off into different farms for grape harvesting experience.

The Menno Experience                                                  

My group (Group 2) included Kafui Dey, Isaac Yankson and Abigail Dela Bedzrah. We had the opportunity to visit the Bushmanspad Wine Estate where we were warmly welcomed by Menno Schaafsma, the owner of the estate and later joined by Arthur Basson, the Winemaker.

(Group 1 was made of Ameyaw Debrah, Kweku Obeng-Adjei, Bill Bedzrah and Emeline Nkosi).

Menno received us and was ready to answer all our questions without any hesitation and that was just a candid pleasantry. He also drove us around his farm in his 25-year old Land Rover while making sure he gave us oral tutorial on winemaking from the farm to the bottle.

It was riveting, beautiful and educational in a single package. Menno, who is Dutch, prefers to hand pick his grapes and so employs about 30 master hand pickers during harvest.

He allowed us to experience the handpicking and we spoke to the workers while he guided us along every route of his farm, and demonstrated his rain water and stream harvesting process into his dams (reservoirs) for dry season use.

After the obligatory lunch, Arthur, the winemaker also took us through the winemaking routine and ended with another delicious wine tasting experience.

In summary, every winery and wine estate we visited, either inside the Robertson Valley, Stellenbosch, and Elgin, had similar experiences from farm visits to cellar to talk about the winemaking process and then tasting. But surprisingly, each winery had their unique stories, whether it is a mass producing winery or an estate winery.

The experience is so immersing that some of the wineries have hotels, inns, restaurants, and lodges attached to serve the demands of wine tourists willing to pay lots of money to have an authentic wine estate experience.

The facts

Though the Western Cape of South Africa produces the wine in the country, which is exported to Africa and other parts of the world, it has leveraged extensively on the wine value chain and has developed a tourism experience to support it all and make it an all-inclusive tourism experience.

Instead of just visiting a restaurant to drink wine with the food, the wineries have opened their doors to allow connoisseurs, wine lovers and tourists to also experience the entire process of winemaking and that I assure you is a lifetime lasting memory making Cape Town and it surrounding wine regions, some of the most visited parts of South Africa.

A report by Bloomberg, noted that tourism based on South Africa’s wine industry has the potential to more than double in size in the next nine years as the declining value of the rand makes the country increasingly attractive to visitors.

The market, which is growing at a rate of 7percent per annum, is expected to reach 15billion rand (US$930 million) in 2025 from 6 billion Rand currently.

With almost 100,000 hectares (247,000 acres) of vineyards, mostly in the Western Cape province, the industry alone now employs about 300,000 people.

The real lessons for Ghana

Ghana is a leading producer of cocoa. But what do we do with our cocoa value chain? The government buys the cocoa at harvest and exports the seeds to Europe and America where these products are processed into chocolate, cocoa powder, and several other cocoa related products which we then import, buy at high valued prices and are proud to offer as gifts to our friends and families.

The real producers of the cocoa in this country are poor farmers who just produce the cocoa and sell them to the government; but that is not the case in South Africa. In South Africa, some of the richest and well to do people in the Western Cape are winemakers and owners of wine estates.

This is because they own the entire value chain in the winemaking system from farming to bottling and marketing. The attendance tourism aspect serve as another value earning venture.

Even if our farmers cannot be enabled to process the cocoa into processed products, what stops us from changing our cocoa production structure to infuse tourism into it? I believe Ghanaians would want to learn, first hand from farmers, how cocoa trees are planted and how the pods are harvested, dried and then exported.

With Cocoa Processing Company and a few private businesses working hard to enhance Ghana’s cocoa locally, the processing value chain can also be transformed to incorporate tourism added values to the process.

To every wine tourist to South Africa the quality of the infrastructure of these wines growing regions is world class standard. A journey of 250 kilometres from Stellenbosch to the Robertson Wine Valley region is facilitated by a first class highway road network devoid of potholes and speed rumps.

But what is the story here? We are constantly crying about the roads in our cocoa growing areas. Trucks carrying bags of cocoa are seen breaking down on our roads daily which affect the movement of goods and services.

Ghana has a lot to learn in developing tourism in general and especially related to our flagship crop: cocoa.

Source: Bernard Yaw Ashiadey/

Published in Travel & Tourism

Zambia’s government has just banned the imports of some farm produce as a way of promoting the growth of the agriculture sector. The Conversation Africa’s Samantha Spooner asked Calestous Juma about the impact this will have on African countries and their agricultural sectors.

Which African countries are the biggest importers of fruit and vegetables and how much do they rely on to meet local demand?

In 2013, the import value of all fruit and vegetable categories for the African region was about $1.2bn. However, the trade tends to be localised in countries that have poor infrastructure. They have short shelf lives so it’s important to get them to the market quickly. Consumers are also discerning and avoid buying produce on the edge of being spoiled. Many of them may not have refrigeration at home so are selective in what they buy.

Poor infrastructure means that countries such as Nigeria end up being major tomato importers because they can’t keep up with the demand. Over the last 12 months Nigeria imported 189.5 tons of tomato paste. This is despite the fact that they have states with ample land for growing tomatoes close to major urban centres such as Lagos.

The importance of investing in infrastructure, as I argue in The New Harvest, has significant implications for food production, storage and distribution.

But poor infrastructure isn’t the only driver of imports, especially of fruit. Other factors such as taste, widely available variations among nations – like India – in fruit production, and seasonal availability are important forces behind the globalisation of the fruit trade.

Advances in freight technology and expansion of shipping have also made it possible for exporters to achieve economies of scale that out compete local producers. China, for example, is emerging as a major fruit exporter partly because of its world class capacity in shipping and logistics.

Is banning imports a good way to boost the local agricultural sector? Has it worked elsewhere?

Banning imports is a blunt tool for stimulating local production. It often triggers unnecessary trade reprisals unless there’s evidence of health concerns. And they’re a poor substitute for measures such as investments in local infrastructure that would enable local producers to compete favourably.

But it’s also important to take into account the political context that leads to bans. Countries like Zambia, for example, don’t have a long agricultural tradition and are under pressure to protect the emerging sector.

Zambia historically specialised in mineral exports and relied on food imports from neighbouring countries and international markets. It sought to diversify it’s economy when global copper markets tanked late last century and the economy collapsed. As a recent entrant into the green vegetable export market, Zambia has previously faced phytosanitary barriers to its exports.

Given the circumstances it’s clear why the government would want to protect local producers. But the ban is unlikely to result in the desired outcomes except to provide relief for existing producers. Bans are usually not permanent and so do serve as incentives to encourage new investment that may take a long time to show results.

Are international trading rules inclusive enough to accommodate a country’s different needs and pressures?

While I think bans don’t work in many cases, international trade rules cannot operate well without any consideration for their implications on ordinary people.

International trade can be designed as a positive-sum game. And it should be. But it will continue to be challenged when it carries the seeds of irreparable loss of livelihoods. Of course we need international trade, but it needs to be guided by different ethical stands such equity so countries are not pushed into continuous conflict because of the fear of being excluded from the global market.

4. What impact does importing agricultural produce have on local agricultural sectors?

Imports are not necessarily bad in themselves. They are part of a global system that’s theoretically built on the principle of reciprocity. This includes the expectation of reasonable balance of trade between the partners. Quite often bans are motivated by imbalances in trade relations.

Banning imports simply because one is seeking to protect local agriculture – and without just cause – is generally a poor approach to achieving food security. In many cases, imbalances in agricultural trade exist because African countries haven’t made the necessary investments – such as storage facilities and capacity building in international trade practices – that allow them to become important players in the global economy. Therefore, imports and suppressed local production tend to reinforce each other.

Even when countries increase production they still have to contend with the challenges of breaking long-term import contracts or violating international trading rules.

5. Have other African countries introduced similar bans?

Many countries tend to introduce bans to reduce the amount of foreign exchange used for imports, not necessarily to stimulate local production. When foreign exchange earnings improve they tend to reverse the bans. This often affects those local businesses that may have thought the bans would benefit them.

It’s therefore important to first put in place policies and incentives that promote local production. Their effective implementation often makes the need to introduce bans unnecessary.

Nigeria has previously imposed bans on imports. One example was barley. This helped to stimulate the use of sorghum to produce beer. But the motivation was foreign exchange management, not necessarily to promoting innovation in brewing.

In another Nigerian case, foreign exporters of wheat stifled efforts to introduce bread that was made with 40% cassava. The government didn’t ban wheat imports but a bill put to the legislature to require the blend was starved of support and defeated. Such is the power of food import lobbies.

In this case the initiative would’ve stood a better chance of success if it had found a way to extend benefits to those who were likely to lose from reduced wheat imports. It’s such losers who become the sources of resistance to new ideas, as I argue in Innovation and Its Enemies.

6. Apart from banning imports, what should African countries be doing to grow their agricultural sectors?

Banning imports may protect a few existing producers but in the long run it should not be considered as a tool to grow the agricultural sector. The focus should be on laying foundations for agricultural productivity, starting with infrastructure and working up the value chain to developing agro-industries.

Without reliable roads, power supply and irrigation there is little chance that Africa will radically transform its agriculture. Much effort is going into scientific research, which is commendable. But the gains from productivity will have little impact if produce can’t reach the market because of poor infrastructure and a lack of competence in logistics.

And more than anything else Africa needs agricultural engineering. Today Africa exports less food than Thailand. The immediate goal should be to learn how Thailand became an agricultural force and apply the lessons to regional trade.

Africa will become a more serious international player when it can trade effectively with itself. It’s like the world of football. Those countries that don’t have strong regional leagues tend to shine in the first rounds of the World Cup tournament then they flounder.

Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International Development, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Published in Agriculture

  1. Opinions and Analysis


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