The development of skills for employment is an important international policy area, but one that has been relatively ignored in sub-Saharan Africa. This paper reports on findings from a research project in Malawi, supported by the Department for International Development (DFID), that explored the links that exist between employers and the higher education and vocational education and training sectors. These findings are placed within the context of international trends in higher education/employer links and the need in sub-Saharan Africa to relate policy implications to the imperative of contributing to the elimination of poverty and achieving international development targets. The paper discusses implications of the findings, particularly for the Malawi government, leading higher education institutions and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and examines the implications for higher education in creating a dialogue and strengthening links between stakeholders. © 2005 Association for Tertiary Education Management.