The Chief Executive of Stanbic Bank Ghana. Kwamina Asomaning, has called on leaders in African countries to prioritize science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and vocational training if the continent wants to prepare its youth for the future.
Speaking at the 2021 Business Roundtable organized by Ishmael Yamson & Associates, Mr Asomaning said focusing on STEM education will serve as a catalyst for producing young people with high technical capabilities.
“The first step on this remedial journey is the provision of good quality and relevant education that does not only respond to the exigencies of today’s world but also prepares the minds of young Africans for the future,” he said.
“It is from this perspective that there is, within the situation of this discussion, a strong push to rebalance our educational structure towards STEM subjects. Further investment in STEM education will unlock the abilities of African countries to produce youth with strong technical and analytical capabilities that can develop home-grown technologies to address uniquely African challenges,” Mr. Asomaning added.
Kwamina Asomaning noted that the need for adequately prepared young people has become even more critical as African countries need to respond to the needs of industry.
“In a July 2013 working paper on Tertiary Education and Industrial Development in Ghana authored by researchers working jointly with the ISSER and the International Growth Centre, they found that of the firms surveyed, 84% cited analytical, problem-solving, and decision-making skills as the important skills expected from University graduates. Yet, 81% of respondents indicated the existence of gap between the skills supplied by tertiary institutions and their requirements.
“While acknowledging that a university education, no matter the course, equips us with critical thinking skills, we must understand that these skills are not an end in themselves. Invariably, the gap in skills and the loss of flexibility that arises from earlier choices by students to avoid some foundational courses in school compounds the school-to-work transition challenges,” Mr. Asomaning added.
He also encouraged African countries to place more value on importance of vocational training as a viable route to career success.
According to him, “Beyond developing a purposeful approach towards STEM education, African countries must also place greater emphasis on higher vocational learning and disabuse the minds of the youth that the university title and university route are an assured path to achieving career success. Experts point to a correlation between youth having experienced vocational training and youth employment. This explains why the debate on the merits of converting our polytechnics into technical universities continues with great intensity.”
He further added: “The role and importance of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) as a means of equipping our youth with technical skills isn’t new to us. Until the conversion of eight out of the ten polytechnics into technical universities, Ghana had one polytechnic in each of the ten erstwhile regions, named after the regional capitals, such as the Accra Polytechnic in Accra, and the Ho Polytechnic in Ho. However, the number of technical universities or polytechnics has stayed flat at ten for the last two decades whereas the number of universities increased from just 3 in 1990 to 70 in 2014, with many of these focusing on the humanities and liberal arts programs.”
In getting the youth ready to take on the reins of industry and the corporate world, Kwamina Asomaning underscored the need for the private sector to embrace the idea of apprenticeship as part of their contribution to society.
“Aside providing avenues for students to complete their national service engagements, the private sector must embrace apprenticeships for young people as its non-monetary contribution to society. These placements could be done alongside the existing monetary contributions that firms extend as part of their corporate social responsibility activities.”
“Government policy must be geared towards establishing a lot more technical schools that train JHS and SHS school leavers and graduates with relevant technical skills that are sought after by industry and society. I would like to commend the Commission for Technical and Vocational Education for their annual Skills competition. It is only through such deliberate acts that the youth will be equipped with skills that match the requirements of industry, and provide a pathway to industry for students not interested in pursuing a university education,” he added.
For Kwamina Asomaning, harnessing the innovative skills of Africa’s youth is another critical element for the development of the continent.
In that regard, he called for the establishment of more incubators, accelerators and labs to foster innovation.
He cited the Stanbic Business Incubator as one such initiatives to address this need.
“Our talented youth need support to experiment, brainstorm and co-create as they embark on their entrepreneurial ventures. Solving practical problems requires funding, facilities, mentorship, and research centers to provide subject matter expertise on trends. In August 2019, we at Stanbic Bank Ghana launched one of our most significant Corporate Social Initiatives – the SB Incubator – to provide business advisory, coaching and mentorship, and market access facilitation and networking opportunities to aspiring entrepreneurs and startups in Ghana,” Mr. Asomaning said.
This year’s Business Roundtable was held under the theme ‘Youth Driven and Youth Centered Development: Africa’s Future’.
Other speakers for this year’s event included Lecturer and Managing Director of AfESC Dr. Abena Asomaning-Antwi, CEO of Deloitte East Africa Joe Eshun, Charlotte Osei of the United Nations International Electoral Commission, former Executive Secretary of NABPTEX Sheila Naah Boamah and Managing Director of Absa Ghana Abena Osei-Poku.