Youth are Africa’s greatest asset. Africa’s youth population is rapidly growing and is expected to double to over 830 million by 2050. If properly harnessed, this increase in the working-age population could support increased productivity and stronger, more inclusive economic growth across the continent.
In addition to high levels of unemployment and underemployment, Africa’s youth are confronted with multiple challenges ranging from mixed growth economies lacking job creation capability for its rapidly growing populations, to the global financial and economic crisis. Africa is the only region where the youth bulge will continue to grow in the foreseeable future. This presents both an opportunity to reap the demographic dividend and an imminent time bomb threatening social cohesion in the absence of appropriate policies to harness this dividend coupled with massive migration in search of opportunities.
Given the dire economic situation and uncertainty across the continent, it is critical to explore alternatives and potential solutions to improve the employment situation. The quest for solutions has triggered a renewed focus on the higher education landscape. Higher Education Institutions are producing graduates with limited skills and require further training to meet workplace/ employer needs. While graduates need to be more employable, universities also “need to produce job creators instead of job seekers. Universities are gravitating towards innovation and entrepreneurship as exploratory solutions to the youth employability issue.
Beyond providing a platform for learning, training and the transfer of knowledge, Universities have the potential to contribute as potential catalysts for change and drivers of economic growth in their various communities. Through their academic programmes, universities can provide graduates with knowledge and skills to contribute to the growth of new and existing companies. In addition, universities can foster and support the creation of new ideas, innovation, and commercialization. They also have an important role to provide research into entrepreneurship and the growth of small to medium enterprises (SMEs).
In response to this need, the British Council has developed and designed the Innovation for African Universities (IAU) project, part of the Going Global Partnerships programme, to foster the culture of innovation and entrepreneurship within universities and facilitate the development of skills required to build industries, companies, products and services. The project is designed to support the development of Africa – UK University Partnerships that build institutional capacity for HE engagement in entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystems in selected African countries (Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa).
IAU is a learning and collaboration platform which brings together Higher Education Institutions in the UK and SSA to engage, interact and learn from one another, to develop mutually beneficial partnerships that strengthen the capacity and capability of Higher Education systems in both locations.
Nigeria IAU Projects
The Nigerian partnership network comprises a total of 24 partners representing 6 projects led by Nigerian higher education institutions. A Centre of Excellence comprising tripartite partners: City University of London, University of Nairobi, and the Change School provides support to the network. This includes building an international community, promoting the exchange of knowledge, and building institutional capability.