On February 27, 2017, 200 high-level participants gathered in Pretoria, South Africa, for the Southern African Regional Ministerial Conference on Jobs for Youth in Africa. About 20 Ministers of Finance, Ministers of Labour, Ministers in charge of Youth Employment and other top government officials expressed their strong support for JfYA implementation.
This endorsement was complemented by firm interest from the private sector, industry associations and Chambers of Commerce, development partners, civil society organizations, youth groups and from young entrepreneurs from the Southern African region to collaborate with AfDB and to leverage on each institution’s respective strengths, assets and networks to spur youth employment and entrepreneurship.
The African youth entrepreneur Ntuthuko Shezi kicked off the conference with a five-minute speech encouraging youth to undertake the exciting and rewarding path of entrepreneurship. In his words “young entrepreneurs see challenges and problems in their communities as business opportunities. They start without waiting for others to act. They just start. They might fail. But they learn and adapt. Then they start again and succeed due to their drive, commitment, innovativeness and relentless ambition to create value-adding products and services, against all odds.”
Alberic Kacou, Vice-President for Human Resources and Corporate Services, reiterated this when he stressed in his opening remarks that “It is time to change our mentalities. Our mantra, going forward, has to be: ‘Don’t ask what your continent can do for you, ask what you can do for your continent,’ if I may rephrase President Kennedy’s famous call to action.”
The Ministers expressed their appreciation for AfDB’s leadership and support to tackle one of the most pressing issues across the 13 Southern African countries, namely how to harness the youth dividend.
Vitoria Diogo, Minister of Labour, Employment and Social Security from Mozambique, said, “The policy environment is crucial. In Mozambique, we are actively supporting youth entrepreneurship in agribusiness. Tremendous business opportunities exist.”
Along the same lines and showcasing that AfDB’s approaches vis-à-vis public and private sector operations go straight to the point, Joyce Nonde-Simukoko, Minister of Labour and Social Security from Zambia, said: “Skills have to focus on private sector employability.”
Two separate, parallel sessions were held during the afternoon. The exchange between Ministers and AfDB management focused on the regional and national portfolios as well as growth opportunities in the region to boost job creation throughout AfDB’s operations. In another session, about 50 young leaders and youth entrepreneurs participated in a ‘world café’ to discuss and narrow down substantive recommendations for policy reforms to ease starting and expanding businesses from young entrepreneurs.
With regards to traction and reach of the conference, social media data reflects the interest in the conference and relevance of the topic: #jobs4youth #afdb on Twitter were viewed more than 280,000 times during the conference day.
This fifth Regional Ministerial Conference on Jobs or Youth in Africa concludes the regional stakeholder consultation held within the first year of strategy implementation. The regional conferences also served as platforms to expedite regional integration through enlarged regional markets, trade and the sharing of lessons learnt and best practices for the development of conducive business environments that spur jobs-rich, inclusive and sustainable economic growth.
As per its mandate to mainstream the ‘jobs lens’ in AfDB’s operations and country dialogues, JfYA and the regional conferences are in complete alignment with the Bank’s Ten Year Strategy and High 5 priorities. National dialogues will pin down the concrete actions to be taken jointly with regional member countries and the key-stakeholders to achieve the JfYA targets to create 25 million jobs and empower 50 million youth by 2025 throughout the continent.