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Zimbabwe faces critical skills gap which could hamper economic recovery: World Bank

HARARE, (The Southern African Times) – Zimbabwe faces a critical skills deficit, including digital skills, which can hamper economic recovery and stall digital transformation, according to a joint report by the World Bank and the Zimbabwean government launched Thursday.

The Zimbabwe Higher and Tertiary Education Sector Analysis report notes that after many years of economic challenges, a comprehensive approach is needed to revitalize Zimbabwe’s tertiary education system.

According to the report, Zimbabwe’s higher education needs to rapidly transform to address the deficit in the production of qualified specialists and technicians especially in the natural and applied sciences, engineering and technology, the medical and health sciences, and agriculture.

The report on the country’s post-secondary education was developed by the World Bank and Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Department, focusing on identifying how the Zimbabwean government can reform tertiary education to produce skilled manpower that would contribute to national development goals.

Mukami Kariuki, the World Bank country manager for Zimbabwe, said digital economies are energised when there is a sizeable population with basic digital skills and a critical mass of tech-savvy skilled personnel and advanced specialists that help to adapt and diffuse digital technologies across different sectors.

“Therefore, Zimbabwe requires a focused effort on developing a digitally competent workforce and digitally literate citizens who could reap the benefits that the digital transformation can bring,” she said.

The report underscored a recent World Bank Digital Economy Diagnostic for Zimbabwe report which highlighted that Zimbabwe is facing a significant skills deficit in science and technology-linked job roles, including digital skills.

According to the World Bank, studies on the digital transformation of the African economy stress the importance for Zimbabwe to further develop its science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs.

According to the education analysis report, extensive reforms are required to translate the Zimbabwean government’s education vision into a concrete set of programs and projects to accelerate economic recovery and reduce socioeconomic disparities.

The report acknowledges the ongoing reform efforts that the department has embarked on under its Education 5.0 strategy to revitalize higher and tertiary education through the five pillars of Teaching, Research, Community Service, Innovation, and Industrialization.

The report also finds that throughout the past decade, Zimbabwe has sustained a high level of public education spending, including spending on tertiary education, relative to the size of its economy.

The macroeconomic challenges in the last two years have, however, seen a significant decline in education spending both as a percentage of total government expenditure and as a percentage of gross domestic product.

Gains in the education sector have largely been concentrated on the urban population, with little improvement among the rural workforce, the report says. 

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