Nearly eight countries from the African continent are seeking help and guidance from the Union skills ministry to impart entrepreneurship training and create jobs in their respective homelands. The move comes at a time when ‘dragon’ China is drastically expanding its political and economic influence over the continent. Call it a victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “skill diplomacy”.
As recently as late last month, the Indian High Commission in South Africa wrote a letter to the skills ministry for setting up a training institute in its coastal province of KwaZulu-Natal.
The letter from the deputy high commissioner says, “The proposed skills training institute will be similar to Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) in India and will cover training in key skills. It will support infrastructure traits and also give training in hardware, software, machinery, tools and provide teachers and trainers.”
South Africa has offered to provide land at no cost to set up this training hub proposed to be run by Indian experts and entrepreneurs. It will be a first of its kind hub to be set up by any foreign country in South Africa.
“I see this as a great opportunity to engage with African nations and share our knowledge and experience in skills and entrepreneurship,” said union minister for skill development and entrepreneurship Dharmendra Pradhan. “This skill centre initiative in South Africa will be a big push for Indo-African relations,” said Pradhan.
“India and Africa have long historic relations and we’re facing similar challenges, including finding suitable employment opportunities for our youth, keeping that in mind, the Indo-African Summit under Prime Minister Narendra Modi was a perfect beginning to strengthen our bilateral ties,” the minister said, adding that Modi himself had said that the ‘future belongs to India and Africa.’
Before South Africa’s offer, six African countries – Rwanda, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Senegal, Tanzania, and Ghana had participated in a knowledge exchange workshop with the skills ministry and National Skill Development Corporation in New Delhi in October, where World Bank South Asia office played a major role in engagement between the two continents.
The participating African countries had engaged with their Indian counterparts in long deliberations on skills development, training, placements and state of vocational education in India.
Interestingly, the African delegates also expressed their willingness to visit Maharashtra and Rajasthan, two major players in the field of skill and training.
Some of the proposed joint initiatives include: recruiting Indian trainers and entrepreneurs to provide skills to African youth and making skills an integral part of school curriculum in African schools, where by 2025, a large demographic of under 27-year-old will be looking for employment opportunities.
Rajesh Agarwal, joint secretary at skills ministry said, “With a young population, Africa faces similar challenges to that of India in finding employment opportunities for its youth. They want to learn from India’s skill development experience.” “African nations have shown deep interest in recruiting Indian trainers to train its youth, besides setting up industries to provide jobs,” he said.
According to Agarwal, African countries are also impressed by the private sector’s participation in Indian government’s skills and training initiative.
“The PPP (public private partnership) model followed by us is something which the visiting delegation wanted to understand deeply and I see an opportunity in agriculture, manufacturing, IT training and infrastructure sectors, where our trainers can deliver the best to the needs of African countries,” he said.
Highlighting the significance of the cooperation between the two continents, Manish Kumar, managing director and chief executive of NSDC, felt that India’s varied experience could be adapted to the benefit of African countries.
“In our informal discussions with international financial institutions, I was told that Africa will be having a large young population in the age group of 25-29 years and they need to be trained for future jobs,” said Kumar. “Africa looks up to India model, where lakhs have been trained and placed through private partnership in jobs,” he said.
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