Youth employment in Africa under the spotlight

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On International Youth Day, August 12, the AfDB celebrates and recognizes the importance of African youth, the future of our continent

With almost 200 million people between the ages of 15 and 24, the African continent boasts the youngest population in the world. By 2045, that figure is expected to double. The African Development Bank is working on providing youth with the skills, education and jobs they need to secure their future.

A recent study by the United Nations has cited jobs and education as top priorities for Africans in the post-2015 era. The My World Survey findings are in line with what experts have previously described as a risk. This is high unemployment, which calls for urgent need to ensure economic development that creates job opportunities and builds skills, particularly for youth.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is reportedly growing at the fastest rate in the world. Over 65 percent of people living on the continent are below 30 years old and 200 million of them are aged between 15 and 24 years, according to the 2014 African Economic Outlook report.

“Look at the demographic dynamics. Population growth in regions such as the Sahel remains very high, as high as 3.9%, while internal migration has accelerated with up to 40% of people now living in unplanned, poorly equipped cities and towns, amidst squalor and unemployment. As a result, young people – around 15 million of who enter the labour market each year – cannot find jobs, either because few are available, or because their skills do not match the needs,” AfDB President Donald Kaberuka said recently.

“And in some regions, as they cannot find jobs or see hope for the future, they become easy victims to terrorist groups, or human traffickers promising them imaginary El Dorados, only for them to perish in the Mediterranean,” Kaberuka observed.

In the AU’s Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want, leaders commit to eliminating youth unemployment, guaranteeing Africa’s youth full access to education, training, skills and technology, health services, jobs and economic opportunities, as well as financial means and all necessary resources to allow them to realise their full potential.

“Success will depend upon what we do,” Kaberuka said at the Bank’s Annual Meetings in May 2015. He added: “The young people being lured by human traffickers to an imaginary El Dorado, only to perish in the Mediterranean, remains indeed, a scar; an indictment. There are indeed many mountains to climb. (i) Managing the vortex of forces Africa faces – demographic dynamics, rapid internal migration, and management of natural resources. (ii) Fighting inequalities, promoting inclusive societies, well in the knowledge that gross inequality hinders growth, corrupts politics, squanders talent, and undermines the very foundations of society. (iii) Seizing the windows of opportunity – such as the demographic dividend – by fixing our primary health care systems and getting all our children quality education.”

The AfDB is involved in various initiatives aimed at empowering youth on the continent. In Tunisia for example, the Souk At-tanmia initiative, has already contributed to creation of 400 jobs, most of them in regions with high unemployment rates especially among youth and women. The projects involves among others, offering training in entrepreneurial skills.

The Bank recently met with the International Cocoa Organisation in Abidjan to explore ways of boosting Africa’s cocoa industry. The focus is on how to increase business and employment opportunities for youth and women. Africa produces 73% of the world’s cocoa, 70% coming from Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon and Nigeria. Agriculture is seen as one of the sectors with potential to create employment for youth.

A proposed project, ENABLE Youth (Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment for Youth in African Agriculture), is another initiative through which the AfDB seeks to reach out to close to 800,000 youth in 20 countries in southern, eastern and western Africa regions. The programme will be designed to appeal to disenfranchised young African adults through a comprehensive outreach approach that will see them receive life-skills education (effective and functional job training) and information on proven technologies and opportunities.

The programme will also come with 20,000 internships, 10,000 agribusiness startups, and 30,000 new jobs in rural and urban areas, leading to incomes of at least US $450 per month. 

In addition to supporting agriculture, the Bank is offering assistance to initiatives aimed at improving the education sector to provide skills required in the labour market.

The AfDB and its development partners also recognize the role of the informal sector in providing jobs and livelihoods for the most vulnerable populations, including youth. Organizing the sector and providing informal workers with better access to financing would contribute to their economic development.