The concept of skills building is not new. We just sort of forgot about it in our politically-correct drive to start Universities in every metropolis.
The government, working through its Education minister, has identified skills building as key to the attainment of development goals and the National Development Vision 2025.
Selected economic sectors
Having identified the need, the ministry mandated the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF) to incubate the Sector Skills Councils in Tanzania for six selected economic sectors, namely: Agribusiness and Agro-Processing; Transport and Logistics; Tourism and Hospitality; Energy; Construction, and ICT.
The entry of Mr Francis Nanai as TPSF executive director is a game changer.
Plucked from the private sector where he last served as the Mwananchi Communications Ltd managing director, Mr Nanai’s skills include – but are by no means limited to – a deep knowledge of the private sector’s expansive network, negotiation skills and professionalism as a manager.
The foundation has gone through a tumultuous twenty years of mixed results – and the time for ‘business as usual’ is now over.
There are two things which should be TPSF’s saving grace: the arrival of Mr Nanai – a suave business leader – and the Sector Skills Councils. Both stand to save TPSF from going down and under, so to speak.
President John Magufuli criticised TPSF for remaining ensconced in plush city hotels at conference halls.
Why is it important to up-skill Tanzanians – and, more so: the youth? The answer to this is that functional productivity is highly dependent on appropriate skills.
Response to challenges
Setting up the National Skills Development Council and, subsequently, the Sector Skills Councils, was in response to the challenges that plague different sectors where challenges have been seen
Where did the rain begin to beat us? Briefly: we followed the colonial system of Education which aimed at producing clerks for the colonial administration. In the post-Independence era – but, more recently, in the 1980s and ’90s – political expediency led us to a situation in which Universities sprouted like mushrooms.
In Tanzania today, Agriculture, Tourism and Mining are the three geese that lay the golden eggs for the nation. The well-being of these – but also other sectors – all depend on the skills acquired earlier.
But, over 0.8m youth join the jobs market annually, with roughly 80 percent of them having neither employable nor self-employment skills!
This arguably explains why the government saw it fit to mandate TPSF on the Sector Skills Councils scheme.
Now, this should make Mr Nanai and his Jayne Gonsalves-led team busy for the next ten years or so.
There should be short, medium and long-term targets on how the Skills Councils are going to be activated, operationalized and run in such a manner that they positively impact on all he sectors that have been identified.
As an example, recent study findings released by the Sokoine University Graduate Entrepreneurs Cooperative (Sugeco) tell the story of beekeeping products that many beekeepers are unaware of.
In the dark
Not just beekeepers who are in the dark… Technical officers in the ministry of Agriculture are also a case in point.
According to Sugeco executive director Revocatus Kimario, lack of skills has meant that Tanzania currently benefits only from three (3) well-known products from beekeeping.