VET Africa 4.0

Vocational Education and Training (VET) in South Africa and Uganda: reducing inequality and enhancing sustainability through skills development

The aim of VET Africa 4.0 is to explore recent theoretical innovations and emergent practical approaches to skills for development in Africa. The orthodox model of how to support VET system reform does not work in theory or practice. Moreover, the broader vision of Agenda 2030 and the SDGs make it irrelevant for the future. We will examine the evidence regarding whether new approaches to African VET offer a better way forward for theory, policy and practice.

Policy and practice on VET in Africa have gone through three main post-independence phases, reflecting wider developmental orthodoxies of modernisation, basic needs and neoliberalism. With the latter’s decline as both political ideology and development theory, McGrath (2012) argued that we needed a new theory of skills for development, anticipating the emergence of the SDGs. This research draws together major theoretical strands that have emerged as possible components of such a new theoretical orthodoxy whilst also considering potential new practical approaches to skills for development, which together may constitute a fourth phase: VET Africa 4.0. This reflects the new SDG agenda and the UNESCO drive to ensure that VET strategies consider not only economic aspects but also equity and environmental sustainability.

VET Africa 4.0 Research Questions

​We will answer four research questions:

  1. Is there evidence that different emergent approaches to skills for development in Africa are viable, both at the project level and, potentially, at larger scale?
  2. What do different stakeholders think works (and doesn’t work) in such initiatives, when, where and why, and for whom?
  3. To what extent do the different interventions offer a fruitful approach for promoting decent work and sustainable livelihoods for all, with a particular emphasis on meeting the needs of those facing multiple forms of disadvantage? What enables and/or constrains this?
  4. Are skills interventions such as these capable of overcoming the old productivist approach so as to address the rising challenges of environmental sustainability?

Theoretical framing:​

We draw on three main theoretical traditions:

  1. A political economy of development approach that combines learning from evolutionary, institutional and complexity economics with the existing political economy of skills tradition
  2. A new wave of human development and capabilities research that combines the capabilities approach
  3. Accounts of skills development for sustainable development that emphasise the need for pro-poor and community-owned approaches to green skills.

Project Partners

centre for researching education and labour REAL
elrc VET Africa
Gulu-web VET 4.0
UoN VET 4.0