Free online courses that teach skills for Africa’s most in-demand industries

Increasing opportunities.
Increasing opportunities.
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A number of universities across Africa are creating free online courses in the hope that they will democratize access to education, inspire more collaboration and networking between African institutions, and support access to education for women, among other benefits.

Last year, Wits University became the first African university to offer MOOCs (massive open online courses) on edX, a platform established by MIT and Harvard. The University of Cape Town has a range of sessions on Coursera, from academic writing and social change, to the ethics of organ donation. Nigeria has experimented with creating MOOCs specifically for high school graduates who didn’t get into university on their first try.

African countries have both a major youth unemployment challenge and a skills shortage. Online courses could help bridge an important gap for African employers, who have complained that African universities are not equipping students with the right skills needed for the marketplace. “Employers are now looking for graduates who can think for themselves, integrate into fast-paced work environments, learn new ways of working, and develop creative solutions to real problems,” write Seth Trudeau and Keno Omu of the African Leadership University. “These abilities depend more on how they were taught than what they learned.”

Issues like internet speed and copyright have made it difficult for some countries to embrace the idea. Still, there’s increasing opportunity for African students to sharpen their skills for the workplace challenges that lie ahead. To identify what skills might be most in demand, we used industries highlighted in the World Economic Forum’s 2017 report on “The Future of Jobs and Skills in Africa” (pdf.)

Here’s a sample of courses you can watch to increase your knowledge in growing areas:

Infrastructure and development

Natural Resources for Sustainable Development: The Fundamentals of Oil, Gas, and Mining Governance by World Bank, the Natural Resource Governance Institute, and the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment.

Democracy and Development: Perspectives from Africa by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Construction Project Management by Columbia University

Rethink the City: New Approaches to Global and Local Urban Challenges by Delft University of Technology

Villes africaines: Mobilités et transports urbains by École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Agriculture and the environment

Planning for Climate Change in African Cities by Erasmus University Rotterdam

Discover Best Practice Farming for a Sustainable 2050 by the University of Western Australia

Water in a Thirsty World by Open2Study

Food and beverages

Introduction to Food and Health by Stanford University

Introduction to Global Hospitality Management by Cornell University

Celebrating Food and Wellness Around the Globe by Shoreline Community College

Health, home, and personal care

System Dynamics for Health Sciences by Wits University

Understanding Clinical Research: Behind the Statistics by the University of Cape Town

Psychological First Aid from Johns Hopkins University

Global Health Policy from the University of Tokyo

Health in Humanitarian Crises by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Medicine and the Arts: Humanizing Healthcare by the University of Cape Town


Innovation: The Fashion Industry by the University of Leeds

Fashion Style Icons and Designing from Historical Elements by Otis College of Art and Design

Retail Fundamentals by Dartmouth

Financial services

Introduction to Corporate Finance by Columbia University

Economics of Transition and Emerging Markets by Higher School of Economics

Entrepreneurship for Global Challenges in Emerging Markets by Delft University of Technology

STEM (data analysis, computer science, and engineering)

Research Methods: An Engineering Approach by Wits University

Data Analytics in Business by the Georgia Institute of Technology

Data to Insight: An Introduction to Data Analysis by the University of Auckland

Introduction to Computer Science by Harvard University