Challenges demand problem-solving skills

Monday, September 9th, 2019 00:00 |
Employment. Photo/Courtesy

Jane Mwangi 

Humanity’s progress, since time immemorial, has been closely tied to our ability to solve the problems we encounter. 

The need for cooking led to the invention of fire. The need to move  and connect with faraway communities led to transport inventions like canoes, ships, cars and airplanes.

The solving of one problem gives birth to the next challenge. Our progress as a species appears to be intrinsically linked to our ability to solve problems around us.

Great civilisations are built by societies that nurture problem-solvers whether in the arts or sciences; great engineers, great composers, great medicine men and women, great philosophers and so on.

Sub-Saharan Africa is today faced with a problem of a burgeoning youth population yet our economies are not growing in tandem. We have a demographic crisis in the making.

The UN estimates that more than half of the global population growth between now and 2050 is expected to occur in Africa.

The population of sub-Saharan Africa is projected to double during this period. This means Africa will play a central role in shaping the size and distribution of the world’s population in the coming decades.

The question that faces us today is whether our education systems are training the youth to become   thinkers and problem solvers.

Technology and innovation are changing the way we work on a scale never experienced before.

It is driving radical, incredible changes that require us to rethink skills development, production, design, manufacturing, and, critically, how we can ensure   sustainable future for the next generation.

For generations, the path to gainful employment has been simple; get a good education and certificates and join the workforce as one hones skills.

While this formula worked for years, it is increasingly failing as  economies do not have enough opportunities to absorb graduates. Not with the ballooning population.

This, therefore, calls for measures to ensure our education system does not merely churn out graduates whose only mindset is landing a job.

The just concluded 2019 World International Youth Day supports this school of thought, driven by the theme ‘Transforming education’.

It seeks to highlight the efforts to make education more inclusive and accessible for all youth, including efforts by the youth themselves. 

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs 2018 report states that catalysing positive outcomes and a future of good work for all will require bold leadership and an entrepreneurial spirit from businesses and governments, as well as an agile mindset of lifelong learning.

It is through this type of thinking that the world’s major problems—water scarcity, hunger, income inequality, environmental degradation, poverty, migration and unemployment—will be solved. 

As aptly put by the United Nations, these problems will require a multi-pronged approach by global institutions, educators and individuals acting in new ways. For countries to thrive, we have to address not only unemployment but also job creation. 

The need for a safe and convenient way to send small amounts of money led to the fintech revolution that’s sweeping the world  by reaching the marginalised with financial services via mobile phones. 

Rwanda is today delivering urgently needed medical supplies to remote rural areas using drones. The innovation has taken the country’s healthcare to a whole new level.

The Zipline innovation has now spread to Ghana, where they are targeting to conduct 600 flights a day serving 12 million people. This will be the largest drone network in the world.

Such innovations led to the creation of jobs and new supply chains that create new forms of employment. We need to cultivate the problem-solving mindset in our children at various touchpoints. We will not only be creating jobs,but also be solving societal challenges and improving lives. —The writer is the managing director, KCB Foundation

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