Ethiopia suffers from a lack of qualified workers in many fields. For example, the African Health Observatory reports that the country has a health workforce of .7 per 1,000 people and a critical shortage of doctors, midwives, and dentists. (The organization recommends 2.3 health workers per 1,000 people.) And while Africa is establishing a technology sector, many countries, including Ethiopia, do not have enough trained IT workers to motivate tech companies to expand. Ethiopia is also realizing its goal of becoming a major clothing manufacturing hub, but local industry leaders say exports are falling, due in part to the lack of a trained workforce.
To build Ethiopia’s workforce, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private citizens are focusing on initiatives to strengthen educational opportunities for people of all ages. Recent programs aim to build skills in everything from architecture to information technology, while others work with particular population groups, such as girls or elementary-age children.
Here are five initiatives aimed at bolstering education to build Ethiopia’s workforce so that the country can continue on its trajectory of development:
A recent issue with Ethiopian education is high teacher turnover, as many leave the profession due to low pay and minimal benefits. The only living accommodations many teachers can afford (especially in expensive urban areas) are rooms rented from a student’s parents.
The Ethiopian government recently put together an incentives package for teachers in hopes of attracting more teachers to the profession and retaining those who are already teaching. At the heart of the package are an increased salary scale, in-service training to help teachers upgrade their qualifications and receive promotions, free public transportation, and a housing allowance for teachers who work in cities.
Ethiopia’s National Aviation College, which was established in 2012, recently graduated almost 300 students trained to work professional positions in the nation’s growing airline industry. All graduates meet national and international standards to work in ticketing and reservations and hotel operations or to serve as a flight cabin crew member.
Gezahegn Biru, dean of the college, recently told a news outlet that the college will soon launch its first undergraduate degree and master’s programs in partnership with Kenyan Moi University. Students in these programs can study hospitality and aviation management. The college also is planning programs in aircraft design and manufacturing and aeronautical and aerospace engineering.
Focus on women
The Institute of International Education’s Higher Education Readiness Program (HER) has launched a pilot program in Ethiopia that offers young women who live in depressed regions of the country a way to attend college. The three-year program is working with 100 girls who are starting 11th grade, offering them scholarships and training in leadership and life skills in hopes of preparing them to study at a university.
According to the IIE, only about one-third of girls in Ethiopia enroll in ninth grade, and only 3.5 percent of those girls continue on to 11th grade. A smaller percentage of that group graduates from high school and enrolls in college. These dismal figures have a lasting impact on the quality of the nation’s workforce and the entire society’s economic advancement.
Experts state that economic development relies on girls and women being educated and that educating girls is one of the most cost-effective means of sparking economic development, improving family and societal well-being, and making labor markets more robust.
Hiruy Amanuel, an Ethiopian investor and venture capitalist, is backing the new Gebeya initiative, a push to train Africans in computer software programming so that they can shape the continent’s growing IT sector. Many Fortune 500 countries have already established headquarters in Africa, and these firms are creating a demand for software developers.
The IT Academy Training program launched in Ethiopian in 2016. Gebeya hopes to graduate about 5,000 students in the next five years and create an online IT services marketplace for the African and global business markets.
“Africa may have missed the Industrial Revolution,” Hiruy and his business partner, Amadou Daffe, said in a recent press interview, “but its youth have no intention of missing the digital one!”
Roadmap to college
Ethiopia’s Ministry of Education is designing a “Higher Education Road Map” to provide the country with a long-term plan for educational institutions to produce competent graduates who will strengthen the Ethiopian economy.
The Ethiopian economy has seen a high rate of growth in the past decade, and Ethiopian leaders want to ensure that this progress continues. To do so, the country will need universities to graduate highly qualified workers.
The 15-year roadmap being drafted by local and foreign experts, including leaders from Germany, will address ways to change the structure, governance, and administration throughout Ethiopia’s higher education system. It will also help Ethiopia manage its resources better and ensure that all its institutions of higher education will provide quality curricula.