Why University Degrees are Increasingly Important in Africa
- Student Tips
Africa is home to all 10 of the world’s youngest countries, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF) based on United Nations Data. Not only is 60 percent of the continent’s 1.2 billion population under the age of 25, but this number is expected to double, between now and 2050, to 2.4 billion. While the booming youth population is widely considered to be a massive benefit, the road ahead is not without obstacles. At the top of the list? The lack of employment opportunities among young people as a result of difficult or non-existent access to higher education.
Read on to find out more about this challenge and about one university heralded for preparing qualified, work-force ready graduates.
A Continent on the Cusp
According to the WEF, “Africa’s youthful population is often touted as a major advantage for the continent. A rapidly increasing working-age population is a major opportunity for economic growth in Africa. The World Bank estimates that this demographic dividend could generate economic growth equivalent from 11% to 15% of the GDP, between 2011 and 2030. If sub-Saharan Africa manages to take advantage, and provide adequate access to higher education and to skilled jobs, $500 billion could be added to its countries’ economies in the next 30 years. This is the equivalent of one-third of Africa’s GDP.”
However, there’s a catch. “Lack of meaningful work among young people is playing into frustration that has in some instances contributed to social unrest or unmanaged migration. Indeed, many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as in southern and western Asia, which have some of the largest cohorts of young people, are confronting or will soon confront seemingly insurmountable challenges to meeting the needs of rising younger generations in future decades”, according to a UN report.
Echoes the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, “A youthful population is like a double edged-sword; it could be channeled into a dividend for economic and social transformation with the right investment or it could explode into violent conflict with devastating consequences. With Africa’s youthful population, Africa is at a ‘tipping point’....With the right investment and opportunities, Africa’s growing youthful population could be channeled into an economic boom.”
The Education Imperative
Africa will need educated leaders to navigate the path ahead, which highlights a related problem. “Concerns about graduate employment and the kinds of skills graduates bring to the workplace are widespread across African countries”, says the British Council.
To which Professor of Public Policy Jonathan Wolff adds, in an article published in “The Guardian”: “The rate of graduate-level unemployment in sub-Saharan African is thought to be very low. Why? Because there are so few graduates in the first place…There may be the desire for development, for the diversification of the economy, and for the creation of more jobs requiring higher levels of skill and pay. But with low numbers of ambitious graduates, there is little dynamic to drive these changes.”
All of which begs the question: Why is Africa facing this ‘graduate and employment crisis’? For starters, there’s an access issue: only a very small number of high school leavers can access higher education.
Then, there’s a problem with the quality of the university education offered, as well as the prevailing perception among potential employers that job applicants with locally earned degrees may not have the necessary knowledge and skills, continues the British Council, “There is still much for universities to do in terms of tackling the evident difficulties of infrastructure and staff-student ratio, ensuring high quality of taught courses as well as the broader learning opportunities sought by students.”
How UNICAF is Bridging the Gap
The takeaway, as proposed by Wolff? “The key to improving the African economy is an increase in the number of well-qualified, argumentative young people willing to challenge the status quo.” Enter an institution aimed at improving both access and quality for African degree-seekers: Unicaf University.
An independent, accredited higher education institution, Unicaf University is valued by employers for its innovative approach in offering a high-quality, internationally-recognized, and globally minded education. A few standout elements of earning a Unicaf University degree? With branch campuses and learning centers in nine different African countries, as well as fully online programs and blended learning opportunities, Unicaf University offers rare flexibility. Factor in partnerships with reputable international universities, as well as the option of transferring to a UK university for a ‘top-up’ UK Bachelor’s degree, and the reasons to choose Unicaf University grow. Says UNICAF’s director of academic affairs Dr. Vassias Vassiliades, “What comes out is the genuine appreciation of our students and graduates for the access to affordable education that we provide. This shines through, irrespective of the personal sacrifices that these students sometimes have to make, in order to further their educational aspirations.”
Consider the University’s BA in Business Administration program, which offers students the option of completing the fourth year as a ‘top-up’degree, enabling them to graduate with a BA in Business degree from an established UK partner university.” Says Vassiliades of the program, “This brings to students in Africa who would otherwise not be able to secure a place in a traditional local institution, the opportunity to study online and earn a quality UK degree, having benefitted, throughout their studies, from learning all aspects of business administration through Unicaf University’s extensive curriculum.””
But employers aren’t the only ones who hold UNICAF degrees in high esteem. Says Vassiliades, “I think nothing better exemplifies what this means to students than the joy felt by our recent graduates, some of whom I had the privilege of meeting last summer at the graduation ceremony of a European partner university, as despite all the odds they were able to make the trip and graduate on campus after studying online.”
Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.