Africa needs to make a deliberate effort to encourage and train more youth in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) to participate effectively in the 4th Industrial Revolution.
By participating actively in the industrialisation wave, the continent can attain its goal of inclusivity, freedom and sustainable development under the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
Dr Eric Nkansah, Technical Advisor and Director in Charge of Tertiary Education said this at the Ministry of Education, stakeholder forum for Fellows of the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Programme (CADF) in Accra.
The CADF is a scholar exchange programme for African higher education institutions to host a diaspora scholar for 14 –90 days for projects in curriculum co-development, research collaboration, and graduate student teaching and mentoring.
Scholars who visit engage in research collaboration in the areas of food safety, hospitality, migration, climate change, agriculture, gender, artificial intelligence and pollution among other key areas
The Stakeholder forum was jointly organised by the Association of African Universities and the Institute of International Education and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
Dr Nkansah said the continent did not derive much benefit from the first to third industrial revolution because it did not participate in it.
He stated that Ghana, for instance needed to reverse its current trend, in which tertiary education enrolment in science-related programmes was 40 per cent and humanities was 60 per cent.
Sharing Ghana’s plans to increase the study of sciences, the Technical Advisor hinted that five new universities with a focus on STEM would be established in five new regions.
A year-long pre-engineering programme that offer an opportunity for non-science students who expressed interest had received more subscription than expected, he added.
Dr. Nkansah stated that the government had begun other initiatives such as the construction of 35 new STEM schools, the advancement of some health institutions to university status, and the recruitment of more teachers.
He called on all stakeholders, including those in the diaspora, to support the government achieve the objectives of the 2018-2030 Education Strategic Plan.
Professor Olusola Bandele Oyewole, the Secretary General of the Association of African Universities (AAU), said both host universities and diaspora scholars benefit mutually from the fellowship programme, in the areas of teaching and research support.
“I am glad that some countries on the continent are setting up special diaspora trust funds to support programmes in their universities. AAU’s proposal to universities is to perceive the diaspora as virtual faculty members,” he said.
Prof. Oyewole pledged the AAU’s continual support towards fostering a seamless relation between the diaspora and universities on the continent to enable them to benefit from their rich experience and enhance university education.
Professor Jane Naana Opoku Agyemang, a former Minister of Education, acknowledged the contribution of CADFP and urged organisers to consider prioritising issues of language improvement, habits, assumptions, expectations and prejudice during orientation to ensure a smooth transition.
She emphasised the need to increase the duration and ensure that the curriculum was synchronised for the mutual benefit of the diaspora and host institutions.
Prof. Philomena Okeke-Ihejirika, a CADFP Advisory Council Member called for the establishment of a platform for the diaspora to give back to the continent, learn from the ground up, and collaborate with peers to capitalize on opportunities to contribute to long-term development.
“Our research proposals are becoming meaningful because visiting Africa re-orients us and enables us to share ideas with our peer scholars to make input and make a strong case,” she said.
Prof. Okeke-Ihejirika said providing quality higher education was the only avenue to break the poverty cycle, and called for the promotion of high-quality education for the growth of the continent.
Madam Rita Samfor, an Associate Professor in Novel Food Products at Cape Coast Technical University, said the fellowship had helped them to co-develop a curriculum for canary arts and food service.
Through the programme, the school had engaged industrial players and tailored their training to fit their needs, she said.
“Prior to the programme, the curriculum was not aligned with the practice of industry, so securing a job was difficult, but the situation has improved after the collaboration,” she said.