Africa is faced with a massive challenge to its successful economic and
social development. Through the 1980s, most countries on the continent
saw their performance on economic and social indicators decline. Whilst
some improvement was seen in the 1990s, it is far from clear that the
corner has been turned. Moreover, the late 1990s raised the importance
of new imperatives that much of the continent seems ill prepared to
face: globalisation and pro-poor growth.
The \"Learning to Compete\" project has sought to engage with this
situation, through the collection of data in Ghana, Kenya and South
Africa by a multi-national and multidisciplinary team. This final report
focuses on the challenges and the opportunities for these African
countries, and, by extension, many of their neighbours, to respond to
external pressures and for their peoples to enjoy improved livelihoods.
These require a much greater focus than hitherto on the learning of
individuals, enterprises, institutions and nations in order for
development to have a good chance of success.
It is important to stress the connected nature of three sectors:
education, training and small enterprise development. This leads to a
focus on the notion of \"learning-led competitiveness\", as a way of
stressing this connectedness. The notion of \"learning-led
competitiveness\" is concerned with the impact of facets of
globalisation on the struggle for international competitiveness and
sustainable livelihoods. The report takes the view that globalisation is
a major challenge, as well as a potential opportunity. Whilst countries
in Africa often seems ill-placed to compete successfully, if
globalisation is not addressed this will result in the region falling
even further behind other regions in accessing global markets.
Globalisation pressures increase the priority for enterprises in Africa
of developing strategies that can maximise their competitiveness.
Globalisation also reshapes the nature of competitiveness strategies. In
particular, it heightens the importance to enterprises of capturing the
benefits of institutional and individual learning. Whilst education and
training do not determine enterprise success, it is clear that they can
play an important role in such success.
The report seeks to explore how such a focus shapes our current
understanding of the possibilities for enterprise development. Given the
arguments in favour of the relative efficiency of smaller enterprises,
and the preponderance of such enterprises in most African contexts, the
principal focus will be on small and micro enterprises (SMEs). This
focus, however, cannot be totally divorced from a consideration of the
health of larger enterprises. Indeed, relationships among enterprises of
different sizes are an important element of a learning-led
A focus on learning-led competitiveness allows new questions to be
raised about the performance of education and training institutions and
systems. The report examines evidence about education and training
performance in this new light and raises a series of important questions
for future developments.
Educational Paper No. 42, DFID, London, UK, ISBN 1 86192 314 7, 122 pp.
Learning to Compete: Education,Training and Enterprise in Ghana,Kenya and South Africa