“If youth is our future, then we are already behind schedule,” AfDB President tells West African Ministerial Conference on Youth Employment in Africa

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Africa’s youth are the future. We must invest in them for the good of society and for the benefit of the continent. These were among the messages delivered Tuesday, during a high-level conference on Youth Employment in Africa, organized by the African Development Bank at its headquarters in Abidjan.

High youth unemployment leads to economic and political instability, and fuels the migration crisis, AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina warned as he addressed the first West African Ministerial Conference on Youth Employment in Africa. “Today, we see a disturbing trend,” Adesina said. “Africa’s youth, on their own will, jump into rickety boats, fleeing to Europe – by all means possible. What began like a trickle is fast becoming a torrent. They have lost hope, triggering a migration crisis. The migration crisis to Europe is an embarrassment for Africa.

“And the reason this is happening is obvious: Out of the 13 million youths that enter the labour market each year, only 3 million get jobs. Just about 33% of the youth are in wage employment, while the rest are underemployed or in vulnerable employment. To be plain: Africa has a job crisis.

“Africa’s rapidly rising population, which will reach 2 billion by 2050, is a huge potential asset. It is expected that the population of the youth will double from the current 480 million to reach 840 million by 2050. That means Africa will be the youngest continent in the world.

“Unless we create employment opportunities for them, Africa’s rapidly growing population of youths can give rise to serious social, economic, political and security challenges.”

President Adesina pointed out the urgent need for action, stating, “If youth is our future, then we are already behind schedule,” in providing them access to credit and affordable financing for their projects.

The goal of the high-level meeting was to forge partnerships and to work towards improved policies, strategies, programs and projects focused on youth employment and entrepreneurship in the region.

The Bank’s Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy (JfYA) was presented during the meeting and participants had the opportunity to get acquainted with its flagship programs. Panelists explored possibilities for sustainable solutions to the youth unemployment crisis, its medium- and long-term impact and the creation of a better business climate that will lead to decent and sustainable jobs for youth.

The high-level event was attended by, among others, the Ministers of Finance and Youth Employment, youth organizations, business leaders, universities and representatives of civil society. In his opening address, Adesina said he was honoured to welcome the Ministers and representatives from Côte d'Ivoire, the conference host, and from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Niger, Togo, Senegal, Liberia, Gambia, Mali, Nigeria, Benin and Sierra Leone. Adesina added that their presence sent a strong signal of the “political will” from the countries of the sub-region to address the issue of youth employment.

Daniel Kablan Duncan, Prime Minister of Côte d'Ivoire, addressed the closing ceremony and affirmed his country’s engagement on the Bank’s important initiative aimed at youth.

“Youth should not represent a burden, but a great wealth,” said Duncan. He also emphasized that youth employment should be a prerequisite for the integration of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) countries, alongside GDP and inflation. The establishment of an effective monitoring and evaluation system to track the progress of countries on youth employment levels remains key, he added.

Sidi Touré, Ivorian Minister for the Promotion of Youth, Youth Employment and Civic Service; Abdou Zainaba Chaoulani, Minister of Employment of the Republic of Niger; and Afolabi Imoukhuede, the Special Adviser to the Nigerian President on Job Creation; also reiterated their commitment to support the Bank’s Jobs for Youth in Africa initiative.

For more information on Jobs for Youth in Africa: http://bit.ly/2aYPun8