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UK - Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

VET Africa 4.0: Reducing Inequality And Enhancing Sustainability Through Skills Development

Disclaimer: The data for this page has been produced from IATI data published by UK - Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Please contact them (Show Email Address) if you have any questions about their data.

Project Data Last Updated: 27/08/2020

IATI Identifier: GB-GOV-13-FUND--GCRF-ES_S004246_1


A new approach to vocational education and training (VET) in Africa is needed to address the insights of Agenda 2030 that development cannot have meaning without concentrated attention on overturning complex disadvantage and securing environmental sustainability, as well as on economic growth and employment. Since the African independence wave began 60 years ago, VET in Africa has gone through three phases, reflecting wider development orthodoxies of modernisation, basic needs and neoliberalism. With a new UNESCO VET vision and the SDGs, it is time to look at what a fourth phase of African VET theory and practice might look like that can address not just economic considerations but also issues of equity/inclusion and environmental sustainability. To do this we draw on three main theoretical traditions: i) a political economy of development approach that combines learning from evolutionary, institutional and complexity economics with the existing political economy of skills tradition; ii) a new wave of human development and capabilities research that combines the capabilities approach with critical sociological traditions and applies this to VET; iii) accounts of skills development for sustainable development that emphasise the need for pro-poor and community-owned approaches to green skills. The fourth part of our thinking toolkit is provided by the methodological approach of realist evaluation, focused on how to ascertain what different stakeholders think works (and doesn't work) in each case study setting, when, where and why, and for whom. We will use these four parts of our toolkit to examine four case studies: 1. Uganda - attempts to build local skills and employment into a major oil and gas project (Hoima) 2. Uganda - youth-entrepreneurship and community development in a post-conflict setting (Gulu) 3. South Africa - major infrastructure development initiative in Durban as part of larger ambitions regarding an economic corridor from the port to the industrial heartland of Gauteng 4. South Africa - rural, community-driven green skills (E Cape) These provide a range of contexts in which skills development takes place within complex skills and work ecosystems. These include massive infrastructure projects, both urban and rural; green skills initiatives alongside continued developments in extractives; and small community projects, including in post-conflict contexts. They also all have important and complex dynamics of gender and economic inequality. We will answer four research questions: 1. Is there evidence that different emergent approaches to skills for development in Africa are viable, both at the project level and, potentially, at larger scale? 2. What do different stakeholders think works (and doesn't work) in such initiatives, when, where and why, and for whom? 3. To what extent do the different interventions offer a fruitful approach for promoting decent work and sustainable livelihoods for all, with a particular emphasis on meeting the needs of those facing multiple forms of disadvantage? What enables and/or constrains this? 4. Are skills interventions such as these capable of overcoming the old productivist approach so as to address the rising challenges of environmental sustainability? By operating at both theoretical and applied levels across multiple cases, this research will make a significant contribution to addressing the grand challenge of successful VET reform. It will produce strong academic research, built through continuous engagement with stakeholders, that will be communicated in appropriate ways to academic, policy, practitioner and community audiences. This will enable the project team to offer new practical insights into how better to support VET system transformation through an ecosystem approach. This will result in new knowledge that can contribute to meeting the needs of the most marginalised, national development needs and the global SDG agenda.


The overarching challenge that this project seeks to engage with is that the orthodox theory of change about how to support VET system reform does not work. Moreover, its goals are now inadequate given the broader vision of Agenda 2030. A key part of the overall problem of VET system change is that VET institutional reform programmes are largely unsuccessful (DFID 2018). However, we suggest that this is part of a misunderstanding also of how systems work. Moreover, whilst there is much rhetoric about engaging more with employers, there is little good practice in this regard. Crucially, young people's voices remain marginal to VET reform processes. We also know too little about whether new approaches such as work readiness, green skills and supplier development programmes are effective in economic and equity terms. Finally, the SDGs point to new challenges regarding equity and environmental sustainability, challenges that VET reforms have been slow to address. In the light of this, the aim of this project is to explore recent theoretical innovations regarding skills for development in Africa and emergent practical approaches to consider the possibilities of a new skills for development account that works both theoretically and practically to reduce inequality and enhance sustainability. The key objectives are as follows: * To examine the evidence regarding whether emergent approaches to African VET offer a viable new theoretical account and insights into developing new national skills ecosystems * To provide a realist evaluation of what, according to various stakeholders, has (and hasn't) worked in projects, when, where, why, and for whom, to inform future interventions and further the development of innovative and rigorous approaches to evaluating VET interventions * To ascertain the extent to which such new VET approaches are viable as responses to economic development, intersectional disadvantage and environmental sustainability concerns * To support better programmatic and policy interventions on skills for development in Africa * To contribute to the further strengthening of African VET research capacity.

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Sectors groups as a percentage of country budgets according to the Development Assistance Committee's classifications.


A comparison across six financial years of forecast spend and the total amount of money spent on the project to date.

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