Students from sub-Saharan Africa are the most mobile in the world, with one out of every 16 studying Abroad.
This represents 5.6 percent of those studying in foreign countries where they are not permanent residents according to 2007 report from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.
The report also indicates that six countries host 67 percent of the world’s mobile students: 23 percent study in the United States, followed by the United Kingdom (12 percent), Germany (11 percent), France (ten percent), Australia (seven percent) and Japan (five percent).
These statistics have since increased in the recent years according to various researches.
However how many get the right career mentor-ship while in foreign nations to avoid joining the growing unemployment cases in Africa? Japan through its African Business Education(ABE) Initiative for Youth seeks to promote business mentor-ship for African students.
In its program mooted under the Tokyo International Conference of African Development (TICAD) in 2013, students are expected to return to Africa well equipped in solving Africa’s economic challenges.
In 2014, Japan which is one of the key hosts of African students opened another window for 900 students from 54 African countries to train in the country in four batches by 2017. They will be trained through master’s degree and internship programs.
The first group consisted of 156 participants from the eight countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Sudan, Tanzania, South Africa, Mozambique and Rwanda. In the first group, 123 participants were male and 33 were female. They are expected to graduate in 2017.
This program is Japan’s first overseas student acceptance project conducted jointly by industry, academia and government, and it offers promising young people expected to lead continuous economic growth in Africa the chance to acquire a master’s degree at a Japanese graduate school and to complete an internship at a company.
About half the participants work at government institutions of the partner countries, about 30 percent at private companies and about 20 percent at universities and other educational institutions. Also, 44 participants were recommended by 23 Japanese companies.
‘‘This initiative aims to build a human network between private companies and governments in each partner country while assisting with the cultivation of human resources for industry, which is a priority issue for Africa. ‘’ says Japan’s Deputy Ambassador to Kenya, Mikio Mori in an interview.
‘‘These students also need to establish meaningful contacts while in Japan as they are linked to mentors who have excelled in various fields and especially in business.’’ He adds.
Challenges of mobile students on their return
Despite an increase in the number of African mobile students, those who left for studies without a permanent job return to join the unemployed workforce that continues to balloon in Africa.
Reports show that Sub-Saharan Africa’s workforce is also becoming larger and better educated, indicating that there is an overwhelming potential for economic growth and development. But even with this progress, youth unemployment and underemployment still remains a major constraint.
Africa’s youths are full of innovative ideas that seek to address a variety of societal challenges.
With upwards of 10 million young people entering into the job markets each year on the continent, vastly outnumbering the jobs available in both public and private sectors, many of these youth have turned to entrepreneurship.
Yet the fact remains that without an established credit history, significant assets, or business experience required by traditional investment models, young entrepreneurs are constrained by access to affordable capital to start or expand a business.
Mr. Mori however says the beneficiaries of such programs should think beyond the box and sharpen their creative skills which he says are not necessarily gotten in a classroom set up.
‘’ While in Japan maximize on the services of mentors since they are so many. They will share with you some innovative ideas which will be of help when you return home.’’ Says Mr. Mori. Other pundit’s do not see the need to secure opportunities to study abroad and return to Africa with no value.
On the other hand, African leaders have also been challenged to create opportunities that match the attained skills.
Several graduates who benefitted from overseas courses are languishing in poverty begging the question whether there was need to study Abroad.
The bottom line for policy makers, private sector and donors is that it cannot be business as usual any longer in Africa. The opportunity cost of another generation lost is too high.
– Wamoyi. M. M., AfricanQuarters, Kenya