200 Million Young Africans, 200 Million Opportunities - Joint Initiative on Job Creation for youth in Africa

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Africa is the youngest region in the world. Youngsters make up more than two thirds of Africa’s population, yet they are more likely than adults to be unemployed. In some countries, such as South Africa, Tunisia and Morocco, youth unemployment rates are up to 3 times higher than those of adults. This serious jobs gap needs to be addressed rapidly or else it could translate into social tensions as recently witnessed during the Arab Spring.

“Youth is a vital force of society. We need a paradigm shift: we must take charge of our own destinies as Africans. We must be able to have regional integration. Young people must be given opportunities, to be exposed, to get experience. We are at the forefront of changing Africa and the world. We support what happened in Tunisia. We will continue to fight for economic freedom to change the situation of youth in Africa”, said Mr. Ben Duntoye, President of the Pan African Youth Union.

In response to this crisis, four organizations are joining forces to support national governments in their efforts to address the growing problem of youth employment in Africa: the African Development Bank (AfDB), African Union (AU), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and International Labor Organization (ILO). “In Cape Verde, youth has been placed at the heart of our national policies. We cannot fight unemployment without educational programs.

Nothing will happen if youth is not involved in decision making processes”, said H.E Ms. Janira Hopffer Almada, Minister of Youth, Employment and Human Resources Development, Cape Verde

This joint initiative is being introduced today at ILO’s Twelfth African Regional Meeting being held (Johannesburg, South Africa, 11 to 14 October 2011). The joint initiative will be formally endorsed by African Heads of State and Governments at the January 2012 AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“The majority of youth in Africa are employed in insecure, low productivity and informal jobs. Young women are twice as likely as young men to be jobless. This joint initiative will address both the unemployed as well as young people who are in precarious and informal employment helping them to transit to more productive jobs and more secure future”, said ILO Director of Employment Policy, Ms. Azita Berar Awad.

Each organisation brings a particular strength to the partnership: the AU brings its political clout; UNECA has a key advocacy and anaytical role in youth unemployment especially in fragile and conflict affected states; the ILO is the world’s leading agency in the promotion of productive and decent work; and “the AfDB, as African premier financial institution, can mobilize financing, convene key stakeholders working on labor and employment issues in Africa (from both the public and private sectors), shape and operationalize policies to tap into Africa’s greatest asset-- human capital to promote inclusive and job-creating growth”, said AfDB’s Social Protection and Poverty Reduction Manager, Ms. Ginette Nzau-Muteta.

This joint initiative aims to create synergies and increase the impact of youth employment activities in Africa among the four institutions and develop broad-based alliances across African ministries and government agencies, social partners, development partners and youth advocates, to ensure that youth employment is at the centre of national development frameworks and employment policies; countries invest in skills development to increase the employability of African youth; and that there is sustained political leadership to implement the actions that are necessary. “While the private sector is key to creating jobs in Africa, what is also important is governments’ macro economic policies. These should target growth, price stability, and job creation. They cannot create growth without an employment creation dimension to it”, said Mr Emmanuel Nnadozie, Director Economic Development and NEPAD division, UNECA.

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