With collaborative training program, Africans pick up work skills

(Xinhua)| Updated : 2022-11-28

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At the dispatch center of Nagad railway station in Djibouti, Aisha watched staff operations while paying close attention to colored dots and lines flashing on a screen.

As one of the first batch of students at the Djibouti Luban Workshop, Aisha and her classmates were learning about railways through an internship program at the originating Djibouti station of the Chinese-built Ethiopia-Djibouti railway.

Aisha said that after three years of training she and about 20 young Djiboutian students will complete their course at the end of the year and become the first batch of graduates at the local Luban workshop.

The Djibouti Luban Workshop, opened in March 2019, is a vocational training project jointly implemented by two vocational schools in the Chinese city of Tianjin, the Djibouti Industrial and Commercial High School and the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation. The workshop was the first of its kind established in Africa.

Considering Djibouti's transportation needs, the Djibouti Luban Workshop offers courses such as on rail transport operation and management so as to help build a local talent pool for the railway industry.

The workshop in Djibouti, as well as about a dozen others set up in Africa over the years, has epitomized growing collaboration between China and Africa in capacity-building.

A report this year by the think tank African Center for Economic Transformation forecast that by 2030 sub-Saharan Africa's working-age population will reach 600 million, with its youth accounting for 37 percent. However, African governments must tackle significant challenges to realize the demographic divide, including high youth unemployment because of the poor quality of education and inadequate infrastructure and equipment, it said.

During the 8th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Senegal a year ago China announced nine cooperation programs that it said it planned to implement with African countries over the next three years, one of them being the capacity building program. This program has been promoted with the aim of boosting employment, especially for Africa's huge youth population.

Upgrading facilities

The Luban workshops have linked Chinese and African vocational schools, helped upgrade facilities and provided the latest technology and training for the host countries. Through collaboration between Chinese and African governments, companies and schools, 12 workshops have been established in Africa, including in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda.

Different workshops have different priorities. For instance, the Luban workshop in Djibouti focuses on developing railway operations personnel. But the workshop in Ethiopia aims to improve teaching and learning in mechatronics, robotics and artificial intelligence.

In an effort to accelerate digital transformation in Africa, Chinese companies have also been providing training in information and communications technology. This month, Huawei established a fund in Zambia to develop local talent, with plans to provide information and communications technology training to 5,000 youths and train at least 50 faculty members and government officials on basic ICT skills by 2025. In Angola, Huawei plans to train more than 10,000 local ICT personnel over the next five years.

In Tanzania, a project with China was set up in June to boost vocational education through the development of new standards in the country. Adolf Rutayuga, executive secretary of Tanzania's state-run National Council for Technical and Vocational Education and Training, said the project will help develop a large pool of talented and skilled workers and ensure that vocational graduates meet the needs of the international market.

The leading mobile services provider MTN in Zambia has launched its 5G network, which will enable consumers to have fast-paced and indestructible internet speed.

The network launched on Thursday will also enable signal carriers to transfer data at a fast speed and users to download huge files of any kind faster than before without network jamming.

Undertaken in partnership with the Chinese ICT company Huawei, the network was initially piloted in January this year. Under the capacity building program announced at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation meeting last November, Chinese companies in Africa are encouraged to provide at least 800,000 jobs to locals over the next few years.

China's investment in the continent totaled $70.6 billion from 2016 to 2020, making it a top job creator in Africa, with more than 170,000 jobs created, a report by Ernst &Young said.

Chinese business associations in Africa have also been organizing job fairs. Last month the Chamber of Chinese Enterprises in Zimbabwe partnered with Stanbic Bank to hold a two-day job fair at which 30 Chinese companies offered 757 jobs.

"We have learned that it is difficult for locals to find jobs, especially for fresh graduates," said Shanel Liu, vice-president of the chamber.

"That's why we created the platform for bringing job seekers and employers as well as organizations face-to-face to understand their needs and also to meet each other." More than 100,000 locals are employed by the chamber's companies, Liu said.

Improving people's lives

Vimbai Chiza, deputy director of Employment Promotion and Services in Zimbabwe's Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, said the platform is in line with the government's efforts to improve people's lives.

"It is therefore complementary to the government's proposal to promote employment."

In August the China-Zimbabwe Exchange Center held a two-day job fair.

In Zambia, organizations such as the Zambia China Old Students Association are busy linking graduates from Chinese universities to Chinese companies operating in Zambia.

"As an association, since 2014 we have been instrumental in providing the link between Chinese companies and those students that graduate from China," said Friday Mulenga, the association's president.

"That's why we created the platform for bringing job seekers and employers as well as organizations face-to-face to understand their needs and also to meet each other."

More than 600 Chinese companies operate in Zambia, the Chinese embassy in Lusaka said.