A review of TVSD systems in African countries reveals that there is a wide range of modalities and actors through which technical and vocational skills are delivered. Table 10 summarises the strengths and weaknesses of different modalities of TVSD: formal TVET in public vocational training centres and schools; non-governmental institutions; the informal/unregistered sector (i.e. traditional apprenticeship);
and enterprise-based training. These modalities are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Many students combine several of them in pursuing their pathways to work. Most countries have a primarily school-based model, where education is provided in specific schools or colleges with workshops for the practical training. In general, students enter the vocational education track at the end of primary school, corresponding to 6 – 8 years of education as in countries like Burkina Faso and Kenya, or at the end of lower secondary school, which corresponds to 9 – 12 years of what is called basic education in, e.g. Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, and Swaziland. The duration of school-based technical and vocational education is between three and six years, depending on the country and the model. Some countries, e.g. Ghana, Senegal, and Swaziland, in an attempt to expose young people to pre-employment skills have incorporated basic vocational skills into the lower secondary school curricula.

Oversight responsibility for TVSD is in general shared between the ministries responsible for education
or technical education and labour or employment, although some specialised vocational training programmes (in agriculture, health, transport, etc.) fall under the supervision of the sector ministries. Some countries adopt an enterprise-based model through apprenticeships. Education and training alternate between theoretical education in a school context and practical training in an enterprise (which account for about 50-70 per cent of the pupils’ time). In other countries, the delivery systems combine school-based vocational education and apprenticeship. The first one or two years of upper secondary vocational education are full-time and school based. This period is followed by apprenticeship for another two years of practical occupation-related company-based training. This model is an attempt to combine advantages of the school-based model (to give the broad-based knowledge and skills) and of the enterprise-based model (to provide skills and attitudes expected by the employers and to facilitate the school to work transition).

On average, formal TVET programmes in Africa reach fewer than 5 per cent of the student population in most countries. Public vocational training centres tend to have a wide geographical coverage and to focus on training in skills required by highly capital-intensive occupations. Both the quantity and quality of public vocational training centres are highly dependent on government budgets. Moreover, since budget allocations to public training providers are usually unrelated to objectives and outcome measures – such as success in placing trainees in productive employment – there is little incentive for institutional training providers to align training courses offered with the needs of the labour market. Consequently, most centres have little interaction with the private sector. Most public training centres do not develop training programmes focusing on the particular needs of the informal sector nor do they cater well for the special needs of minorities and disadvantaged groups. This is the case for instance of Côte d’Ivoire, Madagascar, Mali and Senegal. Originally modelled on the French school system, TVET in these countries has often not fully taken into account the possibilities of traditional apprenticeship for meeting the needs of the artisan sector which both provides jobs and often stands in need of improvement. This is mainly because their school-based TVET programmes have maintained a fairly large amount of general content that is not relevant to the specific skills required for the informal sector. Most budgetary resources finance operational expenses (in particular teachers’ salaries), while very little is allocated to investment, and maintenance of equipment. This is particularly problematic in the training oriented to agriculture and industry which requires people trained in the maintenance of mechanical and electronic systems at every stage of production.

Non-governmental institutions are the most important providers of formal training in many African countries. These institutions can be commercial enterprises or non-profit institutions founded by NGOs or religious bodies. In Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Niger, for example, private TVET centres train more than 65 per cent, 52 per cent, 75 per cent, and 66 per cent of trainees, respectively. In Uganda, 80 per cent of training is provided by private centres. Private providers are particularly active in the provision of training for the tertiary sector of the economy (business, commerce and information and communication technologies), which by nature requires less investment than training in industry or agriculture, which is usually provided by public institutions. In Niger, it is estimated that the cost for a trainee per year is about EUR 840 when is provided by the public sector and EUR 230 when the provider is the private sector. Nevertheless, the quality of private training provision may vary greatly. Governments can make better efforts to monitor the quality of private training provision while at the same time making better use of it. Indeed, the setting up of accreditation, quality assurance and funding provisions has been advocated by some experts as important measures to create a “level playing field” for competition between private and public TVET centres.

Traditional apprenticeships are the principal means of acquiring skills in urban Africa: young apprentices largely outnumber youth trained in the formal TVET system. For instance, in Senegal, some 400 000 young people are trained as apprentices annually compared to some 7 000 graduates from the formal vocational training centres; in Benin there are 240 000 apprentices versus 20 000 students enrolled in formal TVET schools at present . According to a recent World Bank study, between 60 and 80 per cent of skill development in the Ghanaian labour market takes place through the apprentice system. Currently about 60 per cent of junior secondary school leavers who do not continue into higher education enter into apprenticeships. Informal apprenticeships are widespread because the educational attainment required for admission is lower, and it is more affordable since apprentices pay for training with their labour. Apprentices receive training in a trade and related skills preparing them mainly for self-employment in the informal economy. In fact, the vast majority of contributing final workers and self-employed workers and owner-managers of small and medium-sized enterprises learn their skills in informal sectors.

These forms of training which are usually offered in artisan workshops owned by master craftspeople, prepare participants for trades, such as carpentry, masonry, auto-mechanics welding, foundry, photography, tailoring, dressmaking, cosmetics, and so on. Traditional apprenticeships are highly relevant to the real world of work, helping also to develop networks for aspiring entrepreneurs. They have proven to be cost-effective for delivering skills in an informal economy and enhancing the productivity of the informal sector. Often, such systems are more effective than pre-employment training; since trainees are more motivated and mature than in formal pre-employment training and can also enter without the formal qualifications needed for public vocational training centres. However, expanding apprenticeship and work experience beyond the traditional craft and technical trades and improving the quality of training is a major challenge. Lack of monitoring and quality assurance, compounded by the absence of formal recognition of apprentices’ skills, contribute to the low employability of graduate apprentices.

Nevertheless, some African countries, including Benin, Ghana and Mali are making important efforts to modernise traditional apprenticeship schemes and to integrate them into a national training system. This takes the form of dual apprenticeship systems, where craft enterprises co-operate with training centres to provide training and to issue certificates attesting the skills possessed by informal sector workers.

Enterprise-based training (formal apprenticeship) is regulated by law and based on a formal contract. It is delivered in enterprises, often complemented by training in publicly funded training institutions. Many African countries, for example, Benin, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, and Tanzania have enacted formal apprenticeship laws regulating, among others, official registration of contracts; access to apprenticeship such as educational or age requirements; training duration; and skills assessment and certification procedures. This institutional arrangement however is applied by only a small number of enterprises. Formal apprenticeship therefore has been able to provide training to only a small share of young people in Africa, mostly in medium and large enterprises.37 For example, in Kenya, between 1990 and 1996, an average of 750 craft apprentices was trained per year.38 As in many countries, this low number of trainees is due, among others, to the limited ability of companies or their lack of incentives to offer apprenticeship training, the limited size of the public training systems, strict entry requirements for students who have to acquire at least Grade 8 of general schooling, and low demand by youth as labour market absorption rates and employability are usually low. There have been attempts at making apprenticeships more attractive. For instance, Ghana has made arrangements with private contractors to identify trades with high employability potential, to arrange for apprenticeships in workshops and to help graduates with job placement.