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Transforming Africa’s demographic burst into a demographic dividend
The African Development Bank Group has taken bold steps to turn Africa's phenomenal youth bulge into an economic dividend by developing a strategy that would create 25 million jobs for youth on the continent as well as equip an additional 50 million in the next decade.
The Bank Group's Strategy for Jobs for Youth in Africa 2016-2025, approved by the Boards on Wednesday, May 18, 2016 in Abidjan, encapsulates the institution's High 5 priorities, especially the fifth priority which aims to improve the conditions of living of Africans by turning the continent's surging population often described as a "time bomb" into an opportunity for inclusive growth.
"Jobs for Youth in Africa is a Bank-wide strategy which will create 25 million jobs and positively impact 50 million youth over the next decade. To accomplish this goal, the Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy 2016-2025 aims to increase inclusive employment and entrepreneurship, strengthen human capital, and create durable labour market linkages by making use of three strategic intervention areas: Integration, Innovation, and Investment," Bank management said in the strategy paper presented to the Board.
Its three main objectives are: to address demand challenges by creating greater economic opportunities for youth across socio-economic strata, rural-urban divides, and gender and age groups; to address supply challenges by supporting regional member countries in private sector-centric human capital development, equipping youth with skills that position them for the jobs of tomorrow; to address linkage challenges and better connect youth to economic opportunities.
The strategy paper argued that, if properly harnessed, Africa's youth population, that is expected to double to over 830 million by 2050, would support increased productivity and a stronger and more inclusive economic growth across the continent.
Available data indicates that although between 10 and 12 million young Africans enter the work force each year, only three million formal jobs are created annually. Besides, the youth often lack the skills required by employers, despite gains in education access over the past several decades. Women are particularly impacted, often facing even greater barriers to accessing opportunities and earning equal pay, according to the report.
For Africa, the gains of employment would be phenomenal. For instance, it would propel incomes, offer higher standards of living and better health and education access. It has been estimated that reducing Africa's youth unemployment rate to that of adults would translate to a 10% to 20% increase in the continent's GDP. Besides, it would provide better opportunities to thousands of youths who join rebel armies as well as save many souls who would otherwise perish in the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert in search of economic opportunity in Europe.
According to the Bank, the strategy aims to increase inclusive employment and entrepreneurship, strengthen human capital, and create durable labour market linkages by making use of three strategic intervention areas: Integration, Innovation, and Investment, in ways that enable the private and public sectors to leverage resources toward creating and sustaining good jobs.
Under the integration component, youth employment considerations will be incorporated into Bank projects, staff, and systems. This includes the provision of financial and technical assistance to include a youth employment component in the design of Bank projects across sectors and the addition of youth employment indicators into monitoring and evaluation systems.
Also, the Bank will provide technical and financial support to African countries that would enable them to pursue policies and plans which contribute to better youth employment outcomes by building institutional capacity and positioning the countries to increase their employment effects throughout the next decade.
The innovation component would enable the Bank to work with partners to incubate, implement, assess, and scale promising solutions.
The programs initially focus on the Bank's high-priority sectors of agriculture, industry, and ICT, will include an index to measure youth employment outcomes and enabling policies at the country level, and provide information on the evolution of labour market performance over time. It can also be used as a tool to incentivize policymakers to pursue agendas favourable to youth employment.
"An Innovation and Information Lab will support the youth employment and entrepreneurship ecosystem by incubating promising new ideas and assessing best practices for existing interventions. The Lab will be supported by a web-based platform that will disseminate findings to internal and external audiences," the Bank said.
The strategy is anchored in the Bank's overall vision of Improving the quality of life for all Africans. The desired long-term outcome is expanded economic opportunity for both male and female African youth, which leads to improvements in other aspects of their lives.