90% of African graduates in social sciences – AU urge a shift to science and engineering
The African Union (AU) has called on member states to increase the number of students that are in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).
This call was made by Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the Chairperson of the AU, at a meeting of African ministers of finance, economic planning and integration at its headquarters in Addis Ababa.
Dr. Zuma, in her address to the ministers said the continent was beset with a skills gap and fell short in terms of innovation.
“There is general agreement on the skills crisis that we face on the continent: shortage of skilled personnel is amongst the concerns raised consistently by business leaders as undermining competitiveness and confidence. Africa’s contributions to innovation, science and technology and patents lag behind…” she said.
According to the Chairperson, as the youngest continent in the world, the importance of STEM could not be understated.
“With our youth bulge, we must therefore ensure that more of them are educated and skilled, especially in the sciences, technology, and mathematics and engineering sectors, so that they can be the drivers of innovation and development.”
She cited a study by the African Capacity Building Foundation that found a huge skills gap in key areas such as engineering. The study found that an overwhelming percentage (90%) of African graduates (except in Ethiopia) come from the social sciences.
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Apart from calling on African governments to spend more and demonstrate a willingness to support education in fields of science and engineering, Dr. Zuma spoke about the need for industrialisation, mechanised agriculture, the opening of borders, diversification of economies and infrastructure development.
Africa and India are comparable in terms of population numbers with 1 billion people each. However, India produces more engineers and scientists than the entire continent of Africa. According to some estimates, India produces between 600,000 and 1.5 million engineers each year; which is more than the United States and China combined.
India is a leader in the pharmaceutical industry, providing low cost drugs for common diseases and is a growing destination for health tourism.