School Daze: How to Stop the Brain Drain from Angola

Angola needs an educated workforce to diversify from oil dependence and compete in the global knowledge-based economy. The intellectual capital of its people will form the basis of the country's future prosperity.

The Angolan education system is still recovering from the total disruption caused by the civil war. During the war years, schooling ceased completely in some cities. Many Angolans fled abroad. Certainly things have improved over the last 14 years since the war ended.

For example, at the end of the war in 2002, there were 58,000 teachers in the country. Today, there are around 280,000 teachers, the World Folio reports. Until 2008, Angola had only one state university. Today, there are 26 state institutions for higher education and 41 private universities.

But the fact remains that Angola does experience a brain drain, in that many of Angola's best and brightest young people leave the country for schools abroad. While many come back, the lack of a top-notch education system hampers Angola's ability to develop its economy. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), education and infrastructure pose the two major constraints to business creation in the country.

The government has recognized the need to improve Angola's education system, from primary school to higher education. The World Folio quotes Minister of Education Pinda Simão: "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 the national level."

There are two important factors that will help bring Angola's education system up to the standards required in today's fast-changing world. These are:

Teacher training. Skilled teachers will create a skilled workforce. Teacher training is a key priority of the government, especially for secondary education. The Angola press agency reports that the Ministry of Higher Education has adopted and is implementing a teacher training program to increase the number of qualified staff in the country's higher education institutions, which remain chronically understaffed.

A modern curriculum. Another government emphasis is to align the education curriculum with Angola's development objectives. Angola's education system must equip students with the competencies they need for the job market. As Angola continues to diversify, highly qualified workers are needed in a variety of sectors - in science and technology, and in agribusiness, tourism, logistics, transportation and the chemical industry.

"Countries grow because of universities," according to Professor Orlando da Mata, former Rector of Agostinho Neto Unversity (UAN), the largest university in Angola, as quoted in the World Folio article. And he's right. A solid education system, both primary and secondary, leads to economic opportunity. For Angola to grow beyond the oil economy, it needs to make strides in school - and earn more than passing grades.

Zandre Campos is chairman and CEO of Angola Capital Investments (ACI), an international investment firm that invests in companies in the healthcare, energy, transportation, hospitality, and real estate sectors throughout Africa. The mission of ACI is to create global value for developing countries in Africa, while contributing to their economic development.