How AfDB’s investments in youth raise hope for a new Africa

07/06/2017
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“The future of Africa’s youth does not lie in migration to Europe; it should not be at the bottom of the Mediterranean; it lies in a prosperous Africa. We must create greater economic opportunities for our youth right at home in Africa.” – Akinwumi Adesina to G7 leaders

Current statistics put Africa’s overall unemployment rate at 8%, while the youth unemployment rate hovers around 13%.

Sixty per cent of unemployed people are young women and men. Of the young people who are employed, many are trapped in low-productivity work in the informal sector. Providing young African people with the education, skills and capacities for gainful employment is considered an urgent priority.

Thanks to the African Development Bank (AfDB), a new crop of highly inspired young Africans are gradually emerging. AfDB’s initiatives in this area are seen as model of how the continent’s young population could become a development asset for a new Africa.

To enable them contribute to the economy and to achieve an improved quality of life, a growing number of youths are embracing small, medium and large agriculture-based industries nudged on by the AfDB.

They are taking hold of their destiny. They can be also found in education, health, ICT and other facets of entrepreneurship.

Indeed, latest statistics reveal that many young Africans are not only exploring their inner potential, they are taking advantage of innovation platforms, inspired by the African Development Bank.

Through initiatives like the Jobs for Youth in Africa (JfYA), Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment (ENABLE) Youth, and the African Youth Agripreneurs Forum (AYAF), the AfDB is equipping young people with the right skills for business and employment. AfDB has also strengthened its support for science, technology and innovation training by investing in centres of excellence, working in collaboration with the private sector.

With 200 million Africans recorded to be between the ages of 15 and 29, youth unemployment and underemployment are high. Investing in skills through technical and vocational education will be essential to enabling young people to find jobs and business opportunities.

“We will keep Africa’s youth in Africa by expanding economic opportunities. This will help Africa to turn its demographic asset into an economic dividend,” Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group, said.

At the African Union Summit in January, the African Union (AU) adopted the theme for 2017 as “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth.”

AU Heads of States and Governments recognized a country-level demographic dividend as central to the continent’s economic transformation in the context of AU Agenda 2063 – its global strategy for socioeconomic transformation within the next 50 years.

Given Africa’s current demographic structure with a high youthful population, the regional body sees a substantial potential for economic transformation.

According to the AU Roadmap on Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth, “Africa is on the march towards a more prosperous future in which all its citizens, young, old, male, female, rural, urban, of all creeds and backgrounds are empowered to realize their full potential, live with satisfaction and pride about their continent.”

AfDB is showing that this is doable and is already leading the way.

For instance, through its Jobs for Youth in Africa initiative, AfDB has taken a comprehensive and integrated approach to equipping young people for work and enterprise.

Over the next decade, Jobs for Youth in Africa projects to generate 25 million jobs and impact 50 million youths.

In the agriculture sector, the AfDB is focusing on Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment (ENABLE) Youth programs, developing small and medium enterprises and creating jobs in agriculture. ENABLE Youth is a programme for young African people (18-35 years old) wanting to start a business in the agricultural sector. It works to promote, enhance, and modernize agricultural entrepreneurship in Africa.

The stories from the ENABLE Youth participants are resounding.

In Uganda (the second largest producer of bananas in the world), Sam Turyatunga saw an opportunity in producing his own brand of banana juice. As a college student, Sam produced the juice in his own dormitory. Supported by AfDB, Turyatunga now produces 1,500 litres of banana juice daily and sells its product in three other countries in East Africa. His firm also supports 500 banana farmers.

At the African University of Science and Technology in Abuja, Nigeria, young scientists and researchers are being trained to enhance industrial innovation, competitiveness and sustainable development across the continent.

“We are integrating a youth employment component into new Bank projects, and are working closely with regional member countries to develop policies that promote youth employment,” said Adesina.

The Bank believes that harnessing the labour, energy and enterprise of young women and men is critical to driving economic growth and reducing poverty.

In line with its Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy, the Bank is integrating a youth employment component into the design of every operation it undertakes.

The Bank is assisting its regional member countries to develop national youth employment policies, supporting innovative work on best practices to help young people become entrepreneurs, and making investments that catalyze the private sector to increase employment opportunities.

There is a consensus that the 2017 theme on Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth, has the potential to have far-reaching implications that would address all the key issues that Governments have had to contend with, and change the development trajectory of Africa.

“We must create wealth and restore happiness to our nation. We can only do this when we have an educated and skilled population that is capable of competing in the global economy. We must expand our horizons and embrace science and technology as critical tools for our development,” said Nana Akufo-Addo, President of Ghana.

“The good economic prospects of our country must first profit our youth, because they are our greatest strength and our greatest wealth,” said Alassane Ouattara, President of Côte d’Ivoire.

AfDB’s leadership in this area is considered a viable example, which countries can tap into.

For more on the Bank’s Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy: bit.ly/2kJuIzp