Employment Opportunities for Youth a Priority, says Kenyan Minister

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Many political and economic challenges facing the African continent can be addressed through improved employment opportunities for youth, said a Kenyan cabinet minister, underscoring the important theme of the latest edition of the African Economic Outlook: Promoting Youth Employment.

Promoting youth employment will counter political instability and steer the continent on a growth trajectory, said Wycliffe Oparanya, Kenyan Minister for Planning, National Development and Vision 2030, during the regional launch of the African Economic Outlook in Nairobi: “We saw the combustible combination of youth and unemployment during the last elections,” he said. “[Therefore], to avoid political instability, we must steer African economic growth towards job creation for youth.”

According to the 2012 African Economic Outlook, equipping youth with better information on job markets; eliminating barriers to job creation; matching skills to available employment; planned urban growth; and the creation of quality jobs will go a long way toward ensuring today’s youth are gainfully employed.

The joint publication prepared annually by the African Development Bank, the Development Centre of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), states: “The public sector will not be able to absorb the tide of young job seekers because there is little prospect of an expansion in this area. The private formal sector is growing but from too small a base. Attention must be concentrated on the informal and rural sectors because these will overwhelmingly be the source of new employment.”

In addition to its focus on youth employment, the 2012 edition also contains an in-depth analysis of growth in Foreign Direct Investment inflows to the continent, a trend which Mr. Oparanya said needs to be encouraged and sustained. The report also recommends deepening of regional integration efforts, heavier investment in human resources development, reversal of capital flight and respect for democratic rights. Other areas of emphasis included the need for macro-economic stability and the prevention of violent conflicts.

The Kenyan cabinet minister applauded the report, and the role of African Development Bank on the continent.

“We owe to AfDB much credit for the encouraging picture of Africa’s economic development over the past decade,” said Mr. Oparanya. “AfDB provided unchallengeable data that Africa was now among the fastest growing regions of the world,” the minister added, citing the AfDB brief, “The Middle of the Pyramid: Dynamics of the Middle Class in Africa”, published in 2011, which showed that the African middle class had tripled over the past three decades. According to the paper, 34 per cent of the African population could be classified as middle class due to rapid urbanization, access to ICT and mobile phones, growth in financial and trade sectors, among other factors.

An estimated 34 million members of Africa’s growing middle class reportedly reside in the East African Community region of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi.

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