Infrastructure able to create jobs for Africa’s youth, panel hears

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On Day 3 of the first-ever Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) Week  at the African Development Bank headquarters in Abidjan,  the session on “PIDA Creating Jobs for Africa’s Youth” ended with one message: that the time to resolve unemployment in Africa is now.

The panel, which took place on Sunday, November 15, highlighted how infrastructure development could be implemented in a way that creates job opportunities for Africa’s growing youth. “What kind of infrastructure innovations do we need to build in order to create the right policies that ensure job creation for our youth?” asked Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, the African Development Bank’s Special Envoy on Gender.

The infrastructure sector offers massive job opportunities for youth, Sunita Pitamber, AfDB’s Director for Human Development, noted. She pointed out that the Bank had “created 8 million jobs through infrastructure development and trained 5.5 million youth in the area of infrastructure.”

For example, encouraging youth start-up projects in areas such as renewable energy and ICT, and investing in them can create much-needed jobs and a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation.

In Africa, the youth constitutes about 37 percent of the total labour force, but make up about 60 percent of total unemployment, according to statistics from the AfDB.

Ibrahim Mayaki, NEPAD Agency’s Chief Executive Officer, said policies that accelerate development of Africa’s regional infrastructure are key because they will trigger industrialization, and “industrialization is the main creator of jobs,” he said.

He underscored the need for inclusive policies that address the needs of youth. These, he said, were a prerequisite for political stability. “A population that has an average age of 49 years cannot be governed in the same way as a population where the average age is 19 years old,” he said. “If we do not succeed in the next 10 years in changing the way we govern and conduct business, we might face huge stability issues on the continent.”

He added, “There are 300 million youth in Africa who we need to create jobs for. Time is not on our side because expectations of these youth are very high. Public policy implementation processes have not adapted to these youth; our governance systems have not adapted to our youth.”

Ahmadou Aly Mbaye, Dean of the School of Economic and Management Sciences at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal, stressed the importance of ensuring that Africa’s economy absorbed both skilled and unskilled labour.

The forum, which runs from November 13 to 17 at the AfDB headquarters in Abidjan, highlighted the need to boost the private sector, particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs), describing it as a driver of innovation and entrepreneurship, providing huge opportunities for job creation as well as economic growth.