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Angola builds its human capital

Article - April 2, 2016

At the heart of economic diversification lies the national workforce, as the country progressively paves its way towards a knowledge-based economy.


When Angola became independent from Portugal in 1975, 85 per cent of the population was illiterate. Although efforts were made in terms of developing every economical sector in the country, the results were reduced with the post-independence war. In 2002,  the end of the civil war brought so desired economic growth and ushered in development of the education system.

Minister of Education Pinda Simão wants to boost knowledge so the Angolan workforce becomes an advantage factor for the development of the country.  According to the minister, Angola is working towards three main education goals, namely expansion, quality, and pertinence.

For such, the largest share of the population at school age must be provided with education. In 2013, the average time a child spent in education was a mere 4.4 years while the literacy rate for adults over 15 years old was 67.4 per cent. The government recognises the need to improve the education infrastructure from primary school all the way through to higher and vocational qualifications. “For educational opportunities to be created, new schools must be built, and educational resources must be put into action. This way schools will work properly and in alignment with one another at national level,” says the minister.

Lack of teachers is still a problem, but Mr Simão is hopeful. The minister explains that in face of financial limits to recruit teachers the government is dealing with the ratios of students per teacher. This is a number that can be changed by adjusting the total of students under each class.  Data says that when the civil war ended in 2002, there were 58,000 teachers in the country, today there are around 280,000 teachers. “It shows the country’s political drive in terms of investment in education,” he says.

In 2010, 2.6 per cent of Angola’s GDP was invested in education. In the state budget for 2011–2012, the majority of education funding was for primary education, 5.6 per cent. Primary and pre-primary education combined received around three times as much funding as secondary and higher education combined. The Education for All Action Plan (PANEPT) is ambitious as it expects 4,3 million students in the primary sector to be attending classes by 2025.

School tuitions might need to be revised though as in Angola fees range drastically. Schools with private international partnership are especially expensive, some can charge up to 700 euros per month for primary education. Because of this, the Ministry of Education is dialoguing with stakeholders in the education system to reach a clear understanding.

“New schools must be built, and educational resources must be put into action”

Mpinda Simão, Minister of Education

“We will listen to partners and all of those who are involved in the sector in order to reach an agreement on what can guide us in schools financing,” he explains. The analysis of tuitions charged today in private institutions will be compared to the real cost of a student. Measures might be taken to readjust fees. According to the commission responsible for the analysis, the calculation of tuitions should be based on a specific study taking into consideration the education social scope, family income, and the values required by similar institutions in other countries with similar development indexes as Angola.

Another education goal is to seek quality. “We are rethinking the education system in terms of content, structure, organisation, and management,” says the minister. Pedagogical Influence Zones are being expanded. These zones were created so that better adapted schools can help others which are in the same jurisdiction. Teachers are evaluated and trained in their area of need.

For such, a project financed by the World Bank will support teachers by providing ongoing training and education for better school management. ICT will also play an important role in teacher training as a website has been developed so teachers can log in to share knowledge and experience with other educators at a national level.

Continuous and diverse training of teachers is key. The minister explains that the education system developed during the civil war affected the quality of long-term education negatively. “Hence the importance of the Angolan State’s commitment to ensure education quality,” he says. Because it is the State’s investment, students must learn well in order for the costs to be profitable to the country. That is the reason why teacher training is so valued.

He adds: “We think that it is essential to reinforce the capability of school principals who are decision makers for education. It is necessary to support the teachers so they can perform better in class.”

In addition to teacher training, Mr Simão understands the need for complementary resources such as labs, textbooks, and libraries as key factors for better schools so the government also plans to invest in this area.

“We are knocking on British institutions’ doors so that our Angloan students are accepted”

Adão do Nascimento, Minister of Higher Education

The third goal of the ministry is that subjects taught in schools be in line with the country’s development expectations, and the increase of Angolans’ welfare. The proper resources and trained teachers create more opportunities for students to develop diverse competencies which will be used in the job market. Angola’s plan for national development is directly linked to the plan for national workforce education and Minister Simão hopes it will help hundreds of thousands of secondary and technical school students to be qualified to work in the productive, commerce, and educational sectors of the economy. The plan encompasses four main pillars to be dealt with in order to balance demand and supply of qualified people.

Science and technology are in high demand, but there are critical areas which need further investment such as the agrifood, tourism, logistics, transportation, and chemical industry sectors. Mr Simão hopes that between the years 2020 and 2025 the country will be able to meet this need.

In 2002 there were 40,000 students in the tertiary education, in 2014, 220,000 according to Mr Adão do Nascimento, Minister of Higher Education in Angola. Up until 2008 the country had only one state university and in 2009 six new universities came in. In 2014, there were 8 state universities as well as other tertiary education institutions. In total, there are today 26 state institutions for higher education and 41 private ones.

The minister thinks that sustainable development is only achieved with highly qualified workers. “Nowadays, development means better infrastructure, it requires adoption, acquisition and handling of technological equipment which requires specialised people. Only education can provide it. Otherwise early investment may be lost.”

Professor Orlando da Mata, former Rector of Agostinho Neto University (UAN), the largest university in Angola, also understands the role higher education plays in the plan for national workforce education. “Countries grow because of universities,” he says.

UAN was awarded the New Age of Technology, Innovation and Quality prize for their performance in 2013 by Other Paths, a management and consultancy association based in Paris. Science and technology are the main focus of the Ministers of Education and Higher Education. “With a science programme we have results, then we transform these results in products and technology which will serve society,” says Prof. Mata.

In order to show such engagement with technology, UAN and IBM promoted in March 2015 the event “Open Day” held in UAN’s Campus in Camama. The event was a workshop to discuss a smarter planet. IBM in collaboration with the international NGO Planeta Terra, sent several highly qualified technicians from different parts of the globe to spend a day with the university community developing various activities. Topics were related to public and private institutions which face structural, organisational, operational, functional or managerial problems. Economics, education, science, technological developments, corporate responsibility and executive leadership were the capabilities focus.

“With a science program me we have results, then we transform these results into products and technology”

Orlando da Mata, Former Rector, UAN

A similar event was held in September 2015 celebrating the 40th anniversary of the country’s independence from Portugal. The Ministry of Science and Technology (Minct) held a National Conference to discuss successful experiences abroad that can be adapted and used to overcome Angola’s current challenges in the areas of science, technology, and innovation. Representatives from South Africa, Botswana, Brazil, Spain, the United States, Portugal among others collaborated in the conference.

Furthermore, in October 2015 the new Rector of UAN Dr. Maria Bragança Sambo (who took over from Prof. Mata in August) presided over the university’s Faculty of Social Sciences Conference, which was  entitled “Angola - 40 years of independence: Memories, Identities, Citizenship and Development.”

According to Prof. Mata the country must depend less on oil in order to increase the GDP as this sector is not a massive employer. “Human capital is fundamental,” he says. “UAN needs to increase the offer of resources and diversify the courses in order to contribute to the diversification of the national economy.” As data suggests, only 1 per cent of the population works in the oil industry. Minister Simão agrees, “in order to decrease poverty and unemployment, development of other sectors (agriculture and industry) must take place incorporating more workers. The more workers employed, the higher the yield, so we can have a more balanced standard of living.”

The government policy of ‘Angolanisation’ is aimed at providing greater employment for Angolans by replacing expatriate workers, an obligation for companies engaged in the oil and gas sector. The program states that US$0.15 from every barrel of oil produced in Angola is ring fenced for the development of human capital. Of these 15 US cents, nine go to Ministry of Petroleum (MINPET) and six are used by the oil majors for staff training. Out of the nine US cents that go to MINPET, three are for university funding. One US cent of every barrel goes to UAN, and one per cent of the university funding has been transferred to the Catholic University of Angola (UCAN) to develop courses relevant for the petroleum industry.

The Angolisation program has created intense competition among businesses to hire skilled Angolans. With the rapidly growing economy requiring ever more quality skills, a number of education and skills providers are looking to stay in Angola for the longer term.

This means higher competition in the sector from public and private institutions. UAN is still the largest public university depending mostly on the state budget. The university boasts virtually free tuition. However, reduction in government oil revenues could have a knock-on effect on its funding.

Minister of Education Pinda Simão has pointed out that managers of higher education should handle expenses wisely. He advises quality action plans which better spends public finances. For the minister, such quality is achieved when managers are truly engaged in the education and learning process by aiming at student’s placement in the job market and considering Angolan economy’s diversification. He highlighted that every effort made should add value to Angolans, their higher standard of living and professional satisfaction.

Despite the country’s endeavours to do well at a domestic level, minister Nascimento recognises that education alliances with other countries will benefit Angola. “We know that the United Kingdom, as few other countries, has high level tertiary education institutions in addition to being a relevant culture in the world, not to mention the language,” says Mr Nascimento. For this reason the ministry wants workers to absorb this culture to enrich their development. “That is why we are knocking on British institutions’ doors, so our Angolan students are accepted.

For Mr Simão, well trained teachers educate a highly qualified workforce which will be able to adapt to the changing environment of the country’s economic situation. Only then will Angola be able to overcome the challenges imposed by the current globalised scenario.