African Continental Qualifications Framework (ACQF) is validated, and implementation started

The ACQF Policy Document was validated by the African Union (AU) Members States at the meeting held on 11-13 July 2023, at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa. The same meeting formally launched the new ACQF-II project supporting implementation of the ACQF (April 2023 - end 2026).

1.   Validation of ACQF Policy document and inauguration of the project ACQF-II

The meeting was opened by H.E Professor Mohammed Belhocine, AU Commissioner for Education, Science, Technology, and Innovation, and the Deputy Head of the EU Delegation to AU, Riccardo Mosca. Mr Xavier Matheu de Cortada, representing the directorate of the European Training Foundation, opened the inaugural meeting of the ACQF-II, together with Mr Thomas Huyghebaert (Head of Cooperation of the EU Delegation to AU) and Dr Monica Ebele Idinoba (AUC).


The deliberations were highly participative, involving 78 delegates from 33 AU Member States and 11 organisations of continental scope. Over 30 country representatives and experts joined online.

The ACQF Policy Document (in 3 languages) and all presentations are accessible at the ACQF Website.

The validation meeting, on 11 July, started with the presentation of ACQF Policy Document by the co-chair of ACQF Advisory Group, Prof. Maria Luísa Chicote, representative of Mozambique. IMG_7578.jpeg

Two panels and free space for discussion and questions enabled an active sharing of views and proposals. The panellists were delegates from Tunisia (Ms O. Laaribi), Cameroon (Prof R. Wamba) , Angola (Dra A.C Andrade), Mauritius (Dr R. Phoolchund), Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat (Prof R. Sannassee), Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD, Ms S. Abdulle), All-Africa Students Association (AASU, M P. Kodjie)), Association of African Universities (AAU, Prof. O. Oyewole), Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (Mr. V. Udeh), and was chaired by Mr. Chigozie Emmanuel Okonkwo – AUC Education Division.  All panellists and participants commended the participative ACQF development process in 2020-2022, which resulted in a forward looking ACQF Policy Document supported by 10 technical guidelines; and a comprehensive capacity development programme, accessible on the ACQF website. Delegates called for ACQF support to develop and implement national qualifications frameworks (NQF), and related policies and guidelines. This call was especially ardent from French-speaking countries and organisations. The debates emphasised the importance of communication and advocacy in implementing the ACQF, reaching out both to governments’ decision makers and to practitioners (education and training community, social partners, students and youth, and the productive sectors).

The meeting inaugurating the new ACQF-II project (12-13 July) was chaired by the coordinator and team leader of ACQF-II project (Eduarda Castel-Branco, ETF). The meeting began with the comprehensive presentation of the project strategy, planned objectives, and activities, followed by a discussion. Thematic presentations focused on specific ACQF-II project components, notably the capacity development programme (Output 1.1), the programme to support NQF development (Output 2.1) and the Campaign on Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL, Output 3.3). The project strategy received highly positive feedback from participants. Lessons learned on qualifications databases and registers were discussed, in preparation to the upcoming development of ACQF Digital Qualifications Platform (Output 3.1).

Peer-learning and dissemination of good practice between countries is greatly appreciated by all participants, therefore the agenda included two substantive sessions dedicated to information-sharing. The state of play of NQFs was presented in two panels composed of the responsible NQF bodies of 12 African countries. NQFs are at different stage of advancement, and the lessons shared by those with larger experience are seen as highly valuable orientations for the newcomers. Six NQFs at advanced stage of implementation were presented: Cabo Verde, Kenya, Mauritius, Seychelles, South Africa, and Zambia. Six other countries presented NQFs at stage of development and consultation, or at stage of started implementation: Angola, Eswatini, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, and Sierra Leone.

On days 2 and 3 the speakers were: E. Castel-Branco, A.C. Andrade, M. Dlamini, M. Kissi, P. Costa, M. L. Chicote, M. Mansaray, M. Ngoma, N. Starr, F. Ernesta, R. Phoolchund, S. Maindi, A. Mendes, A. Papantoniou and A. Camilleri.

On 13 July the ACQF Advisory Group (ACQF AG), chaired by the Mr. Chigozie Emmanuel Okonkwo - AUC (division for Education)

  • unanimously accepted the new co-chairs for the next period: Cameroon and SADC;
  • endorsed the proposed development of the African NQF Network, to be an autonomous legal entity, working in cooperation with AUC, ETF and other relevant organisations. In the future, the Network will contribute to develop and implement NQFs across the continent, implement the ACQF and to ensure sustainability. Participants requested rapid start of the activities to create this Network;
  • explored the benefits and methodological approach to referencing to ACQF. During the meeting four countries and one regional qualifications framework expressed an interest to reference to ACQF: Cabo Verde, Kenya, Mauritius and Seychelles and East Africa Community (IUCEA).


Online participants shared comments and views on the ACQF-II and expressed interest to participating actively in the workshops and conferences of the ACQF-II work plan.

To conclude the meeting, the African Union Commission (AUC) thanked the participating countries for their commitment, excellent contributions to all debates, and the interest to implement the ACQF. The outgoing co-chair of the ACQF AG (from Mozambique) was appreciated and thanked by all participants and the AUC.

Back-to-back to the event, a series of bilateral meetings with nine countries and one Regional Economic Community (IGAD) were held on 14 July, to engage in more specific discussion of the scope of cooperation with ACQF-II on development of NQFs, RPL, credit transfer systems and qualifications databases. These countries will work together with the technical implementation team of the ACQF-II to develop the following policies and deliverables: comprehensive NQF; RPL policies and guidelines; credit transfer systems; digital tools to support management of qualifications and credentials (websites, digital databases); capacity development of the relevant national institutions and stakeholders.

2.   The ACQF is the new and largest meta-qualifications framework

The ACQF Policy Document was developed in 2021-2022 within the project AU-EU Skills for Youth Employability/Skills Initiative for Africa, Technical Cooperation – Developing the African Continental Qualifications Framework (ACQF).

The Policy Document is validated by the AUC, and the AU Member States and regional economic communities (RECs). They pledge to jointly implement and nurture the ACQF with support of the relevant African stakeholders and the international partners in the period 2023-2026 and beyond. The ACQF responds to objectives set by the AU’s Agenda 2063 and its First Ten Year Implementation Plan (2023), and by the AU’s Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA, 2016-25).

ACQF is a policy and an instrument of continental scope to deliver on the objectives of enhanced transparency and comparability of qualifications, mutual trust between qualifications frameworks and systems for lifelong learning in Africa, and mobility (learners, workers). The ACQF is comprehensive and inclusive, open to innovation and to address new demands from the digital and green transformation, enabling stakeholder participation and learning from relevant national, regional, and global experiences. The ACQF interacts with other relevant projects and initiatives and cooperates with national and regional qualifications frameworks.

The ACQF is defined as an overarching reference qualifications framework of ten levels, serving as a connector and translation device between different qualifications frameworks or systems and their levels. The ACQF will deliver on the areas of activity defined by the Policy Document, namely: a) referencing between qualifications frameworks; b) Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) campaign; c) digital qualifications database; d) common profiles of qualifications; e) capacity development and support to national qualifications frameworks; f) networking, communication, and advocacy; g) analysis, monitoring, and evaluation.

3.   The new project supporting implementation of the ACQF

With support of the European Union, the ACQF-II project will provide tangible contribution to implement these main areas of activity of the ACQF. This project is implemented by the European Training Foundation (ETF), working in cooperation with AUC, the countries, and regions.

The project ACQF-II is a game changer, a catalyst for holistic and inclusive view of education and training in a lifelong learning perspective. New demands and potentialities of the twin digital and green transformation will be reflected in the project activities. In fact, the ACQF level descriptors already include green skills.

The project ACQF-II is structured to deliver on the three key outcomes:

  1. Capacity development, networking, and mutual learning.
  2. Support to countries and regions: NQF development and implementation.
  3. Governance and implementation capacity: ACQF Qualifications Platform. Referencing NQF-ACQF. Common profiles of qualifications.

The project has an ambitious scope of work, contributing to develop capacity of African stakeholders and disseminate knowledge and experiences, supporting networking, communication, and advocacy. Technical support to countries’ NQF development is starting, working with approx. 10 countries and 3 regions. The Campaign supporting Recognition of Prior Learning will encourage and guide countries in development and implementation of RPL policies and services for the population.

The ACQF-II project will contribute to skills mobility, comparability of qualifications and recognition of qualifications, building on three essential components of the implementation plan: a) the ACQF digital Qualifications Platform; b) referencing of NQFs and ACQF; c) development of common profiles of qualifications. The ACQF digital qualifications platform will connect countries qualifications databases and share information useful for smoother processes of recognition of qualifications. Referencing of NQFs and ACQF fosters the gradual creation of an area of trusted qualifications between countries and contributes to continuous improvement of NQFs. The common profiles of qualifications will be jointly developed by the interested countries and regions, targeting emerging occupations and priority sectors for free trade, economic integration and mobility. Green and digital skills will be systematically included in the design of common profiles of qualifications.

Besides, the ACQF-II will support cooperation with the Addis Recognition Convention Committee on the linkages between qualifications frameworks and recognition of qualifications. The planned exchanges and networking with regional qualifications frameworks in Africa, and with other meta-frameworks and networks globally will foster global transparency of qualifications and credentials. An important milestone will be the comparison of ACQF with the European Qualifications Framework – two continents working together.

The ACQF does not work in isolation.

  • Firstly, it is closely linked with other relevant AU strategies and initiatives, mentioned above.
  • Moreover, the project ACQF-II is also part of a wider policy of the EU, tabled at the last EU-Africa Summit of 2022 – the Global Gateway Investment Package, more specifically of its component, the “Youth Mobility for Africa flagship initiative”. The Flagship aims to foster inclusive learning mobility opportunities and boost employability through exchanges, and cooperation projects, support regional and continental harmonization mechanisms in the area of education, and ultimately contribute to the empowerment of youth. The Flagship will provide a common platform for policy dialogue and exchanges, for synergies and collaborations between stakeholders.


4.   Conclusion

Empowered people, employability, skills and qualifications for a changing world, vibrant lifelong learning for all, citizenship education and mobility - are the greatest responsibilities of any government and society.

Africa is the youngest of all continents and the potential of its youthful population is immense but needs to be nurtured, especially given the current global context of multiple crises. Education, training, recognition of skills and competences, development of new skills on demand, comparable and transparent qualifications, and credentials - are part of the solution.

A continental qualifications framework open to work with 55 countries and 8 regional economic communities is a new experience globally and a new level of ambition. And at the same time the ACQF can contribute to create and consolidate an area of trusted qualifications and credentials across the vast continent, using the benefits of digitalisation and lessons learned from other frameworks. Qualifications and NQFs like all organic structures grow, evolve, and adapt. The story of ACQF will be remembered, if the ACQF is put into action.

The ACQF is about connecting and creating mutual trust between qualifications systems and frameworks across the continent and beyond. It is part of the solution to recognition of qualifications and skills, to elevate the visibility and value of African NQFs and qualifications of all levels and modalities of learning.

Moving from the stage of design and development of the ACQF will require commitment from all parts, and outstanding expertise, coordination, and dedication of the technical implementation team.

The quest for adequate paths for the skills revolution, inclusive for all populations and open to innovation is global. Only joining forces can we shape and improve these paths.