The African economy is set to grow by 4.5 percent in 2012. Yet Africa is still being held back by inadequate job training, as delegates heard at the recent Africa Business Week conference here in Germany.
Arnulf Christa is familiar with the way business is done in Africa. He is a member of the senior management of the German company Bauer Spezialtiefbau, which lays the foundations for building and bridges in Africa's booming cities. The company generally does well in an African country when it is able to form a subsidiary that can operate independently and with local labor. That is no an easy task. Christa says that as soon as he has trained staff to do their jobs, they are promptly poached by the competition.
"In Germany when you switch jobs," he says, "you can expect a pay rise of five to ten percent. In Africa, you can expect your salary to double or triple."
The African economy has been growing for some years. International companies are investing in the continent, in particular in those countries which possess an abundance of natural resources.
However, if the local population is to benefit from this foreign investment, vocational training needs to be stepped up.
Foreign labor is expensive
Andreas König works for the German aid organization GIZ. He says hundreds of thousands of young Africans are leaving school without access to further education. They can't get qualifications, even though Africa is suffering from a shortage of skilled labor, at least in those counties where the economy is booming.
"Qualified personnel are having to be brought in from abroad," König says, "which is expensive and does not bring much benefit to the country in the long term."
Jaiye Doherty is a Nigerian business consultant. He says international firms in his country tend to employ foreigners rather than local staff. The government is seeking to counteract this by insisting that if a foreign company submits a tender for a Nigerian government contract, then at least some of the company staff have to be Nigerian. "It is a new trend," Doherty says "and not just in Nigeria:"
Doherty knows all too well that such schemes can only work if local companies and their employees are properly qualified and up to standard. All parties involved agree that more long term investment is needed in training and education. Opinions differ, though, over where the money should go. Some want training tailored to the requirements of industry, as happens in Germany, others want more funds for existing African educational establishments.
Government action needed
When Arnulf Christa of Bauer Spezialtief tells African politicians and enterprises how much money his company invests in staff training, they are puzzled and even taken aback. Well-trained staff, he tells them, are just as much part of his company's capital as the euros and cents sitting in the bank. Christa knows that it is up to others to solve Nigeria's educational problems
"The government needs to ensure that opportunities for training are made more widely available," he says. "As a single company, we can't do that. As a single company you can only respond to what is happening on the market. You can't change the market itself."
Author: Adrian Kriesch / mc
Editor: Asumpta Lattus