Green Jobs; what’s in it for marginalised groups in Africa

By Mantoe Phakathi

*Africa Green Media

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African governments should consider overhauling its education systems to equip young people with relevant skills as the world moves towards a green economy.

This was the view of panellists at the Skills and Human Capital Development for Green Growth, Climate Adaptation and Green Jobs in Africa, African Development Bank (AfDB) and International Labour Organisation (ILO) in the margins of the Paris climate talks.

Morategi Kale, a 20-year-old University of Cape Town Student from South Africa, was first to make this assertion at as the 21st session (COP 21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is expected to conclude with a sustainable deal on Friday.

Kale observed that graduates are leaving tertiary institutions without relevant skills that are key in the creation of green economies.

“In South Africa, for instance, climate change does not go beyond reduce, reuse and recycle,” said Kale, adding: “We need skills right from primary (school) level so that students are informed about the subject by the time they get to tertiary level.”

But she noted that even at tertiary level, the education system is rigid in that there is no fluidity between departments. For example, students who are doing science keep to their corner while those in social science also do the same. However, climate change cuts across all spheres of life and Kale urged different government departments, such as environment and education, to work together to foster fluidity among different faculties in tertiary institutions.

The language used in the negotiation process is also not friendly to the youth and many other people in the African continent, said Kale.

“Climate change is discussed in a way that uses complex jargon. We need to use language that is understandable and social media should be used because that is where you find young people,” said Kale.

Environment Minister from Nigeria, Amina Mohammed, concurred with Kale adding that in many African countries many students do not reach tertiary level. He urged African governments to work with private sector to develop curriculum to produce skills needed in the job market. As one of the largest oil-producing economies, he said Nigeria needs to work hard to get the skills right as the world moves towards the 2050 deadline for low-carbon economies.

“In Africa we have a very rigid education system,” said Mohamed. “We need to be flexible.”

If the implementation of greening economies were to be done effectively, said Guy Ryder, International Labour Organisation (ILO) director general, a potential of 60 million jobs could be created.

“Part of this means addressing the skills and employment deficit,” said Ryder said.

Ryder said in the green economy, some occupations will disappear while others will be upgraded or restructured. However he observed that many African countries are not well equipped to face skills and challenge of green growth. He attributed this to the fact that very few students reach tertiary level.

“But solar technicians are people with very sophisticated sills,” said Ryder. “Skills systems need to be strengthened.”

He however warned against putting green jobs in a box advising instead that countries should focus on “greening our economy” which is implementing low-carbon methods of production.

Green economies call for inclusion rather exclusion. As discussed by Winfred Lichuma, the chairperson of the National Gender and Equality Commission, the role of both men and women should be taken into account in the creation of green jobs. In fact, instead of focusing on women only, she said, the transition to a green economy should take a human rights approach.

“We should look at the principles of inclusion which addresses the different roles of men and women,” said Lichuma. “In my view, the different roles should sit on the decision-making table.”

She said non-discrimination goes beyond education systems to community level where people need to be trained to also adapt to the green economy considering that the majority of entrepreneurs in Africa are women.

The good news is that AfDB division manager, environment and social protection, Antony Nyong, told delegates that Affirmative Finance Action aimed at empowering women entrepreneurs in agriculture.