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Senegal’s President, Macky Sall, called on African states to increase the volume and value of trade amongst each other in order to address the surging challenge of unemployment faced throughout the continent.
He delivered the message on Wednesday, May 21, during the Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank hosted in Kigali, Rwanda.
President Sall made the statement in a high-level session titled “Where Are the Jobs?”, together with continental and regional experts including Carlos Lopez, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), and Viswanathan Shankar, the Executive Director of Standard Chartered Bank for Europe, Middle East and Africa.
“Finding employment for our people should no longer be looked at as a national issue, but a continental issue. We need to build more industries and create trade linkages between African countries – and through this, many jobs will be created,” Sall said.
“This calls for drastic measures to scale up our industrial growth by providing necessities like electricity, water, transport and communication modes that are always functional. We in governments must also ensure that the environment is conducive for investors through political stability and security provision.”
Trade within Africa represented about 12% of the continent’s total trade in 2010, while the major part of the continent’s trade was with the rest of the world.
Carlos Lopez of ECA added that a lot of emphasis must be placed on agriculture due to its role as the backbone of employment and industrial growth in Africa.
“Focus on agriculture will propel industrial growth and employment. Africa does not have much of a social welfare plan, therefore, people often perform occupational activities in order to survive. But if Africa focuses on agri-business models and industrialization, many descent jobs will created for the average African.”
The message was echoed by Shankar of Standard Chartered Bank, who added that African leaders must adopt changes in their education systems in order to match skills with market requirements.
“In Singapore, over 50% of the youth who graduate from high school choose to attend vocational schools rather than universities – and this has helped the Asian country to have a large pool of young people with skills that are needed in the market. Africa must borrow this and replace theoretical teaching with practical lessons,” Shankar said.
“Leaders must therefore adopt a secular approach where they learn from successful models in other countries. Job creation cannot happen overnight; but with the right macroeconomics, political stability and quality education policies, we can get broad change throughout the continent.”
He emphasized the need to translate natural resource-based sectors into jobs and employment opportunities.
The incidence of youth unemployment in Sub-Saharan African is estimated to be over 20%, and remains a barrier to the continent’s development.