Africa’s young people are much more likely to have passed through the continent’s formal education systems than their predecessors. With that comes a challenge for leaders of business and government to provide them with the opportunities to apply their skills. More than that, to ensure their skills can help them thrive in the changing world of work. A new report by the World Economic Forum has uncovered 5 key facts about the future of jobs and skills in the region

1. Africa’s young people are better educated

At current rates, 15 to 20 million increasingly well-educated young people are expected to join the continent’s workforce every year until 2030. This poses a challenge to governments and businesses: how can they make the most of the talent of this up-and-coming generation, at the same time as ensuring that more young people receive secondary and tertiary education than currently predicted?

2) Africa could make more of its human capital

Africa’s demographic dividend creates a huge opportunity. Yet African countries continue to lag behind their neighbours in making the best use of their people’s talent. The World Economic Forum’s Human Capital Index, which measures the extent to which countries optimize the well-being and productivity of their workforces, finds that Africa, on average, only captures 55% of its full human capital potential, compared with a global average of 65%.

Image: World Economic Forum’s Human Capital Index

3) Africa’s education systems need to catch up with the needs of today – and tomorrow

Today, there aren't many African employers who rate the ability of their countries’ education systems to prepare future workers for the needs of the global economy. To develop this pipeline of future skills, Africa’s educators should begin by encouraging critical thinking, creativity, cognitive flexibility and emotional intelligence, as opposed to rote learning, to anticipate the way people will increasingly work and collaborate.

Image: World Economic Forum Executive Opinion Survey

4) More Africans are university-educated. Demand for STEM and ICT skills continues

Within the – still small – pool of tertiary-educated Africans making up the continent’s white-collar workforce exists a wide range of STEM and ICT specializations: 16% of the continent’s tertiary-educated workforce have studied Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction; 11% ICT and 11% Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Statistics. Fast-growing professions on the continent include the creative industries, food technologists, 3D designers and data-centre workers, as well as people working in care, health and education. In fact, strong demand for STEM and ICT skills exists across a wide range of Africa’s industries.

5) Africa should match today's skills to tomorrow's jobs

While a number of African countries, at least for now, are still less exposed to the job disruptions of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (which we measure through the spread of latest technologies and diversification of local labour markets), they must not waste this window of opportunity for engaging in reforms. Indeed, these countries’ current capacity to meet the requirements of future jobs leave little space for complacency.

In other countries, exposure is higher, including South Africa and Kenya, and there is no time to waste when it comes to reskilling and upskilling. The World Economic Forum’s Africa Skills Initiative, a part of the broader efforts of the Forum’s System Initiative on Shaping the Future of Education, Gender and Work, serves as a platform for such action.

Africa's capacity to adapt, and exposure to jobs