With the number of youths in Africa set to double by 2045, countries across the continent should boost job creation and help young people to acquire new skills, according to the African Economic Outlook, 2012.
“Creating productive employment for Africa’s rapidly growing young population is an immense challenge but also the key to future prosperity,” said the authors of the report in the foreword of the document.
The report that was co-written by the African Development Bank, the OECD Development Centre, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and copied to Ghana News Agency (GNA), said youth were an opportunity for future economic growth.
It said between 2000 and 2008, despite world-topping economic growth rates, and a better educated youth, Africa created only 16 million jobs for young people aged between 15 and 24.
Currently, the youth represent 60 percent of the continent’s unemployed, and of these 40 million youths, 22 million have given up on finding a job, many of them women. “The continent is experiencing jobless growth”, said Mthuli Ncube, Chief Economist and Vice-President of the African Development Bank (AfDB).
“That is an unacceptable reality on a continent with such an impressive pool of youth, talent and creativity”.
The report said, youth unemployment would increase unless Africa moved swiftly to make youth employment a priority, turning its human capital into economic opportunity.
On the other hand, it said the youth could present a significant threat to social cohesion and political stability if they do not secure decent living conditions.
The report said, “High growth alone is not sufficient to guarantee productive employment. Youth employment is largely a problem of quality in low-income countries, and one of quantity in middle-income countries.
“In low-income countries, most young people work but are poor nevertheless. In African middle-income countries on the other hand, such as South Africa or the Northern African countries, despite better education, more youth are inactive than working”, said Mario Pezzini, Director at the OECD Development Centre.
The report recommended that African countries should design better coordinated strategies to effectively tackle youth employment, focus on job creation by the private sector, create the right conditions for businesses to grow, and expand their work force.
In addition, given the small size of the formal sector in many African countries, the report asked Governments to focus on the informal sector and rural areas, which have entrepreneurial talent to serve the engine for growth to absorb the unemployed youths.
It also advocated policies that would ensure the training of the youth to enable them to compete in the job market.
The report said export diversification beyond raw material and private sector development were important to mitigate the continent’s susceptibility to external shocks, but that would take time, said Emmanuel Nnadozie, Director of Economic Development at UNECA.
He said with the right policies in place, the continent could capitalize on its recent economic growth to achieve a development breakthrough.
“Youth employment is an investment in the future. It contributes to reducing poverty, wealth creation, well-being and social cohesion,” said Pedro Conceiçăo, Chief Economist at UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Africa.
The African Economic Outlook presents a comprehensive analysis of economic, social and political developments in the region. The report includes in-depth country notes on 53 of the continent’s 54 economies, a macroeconomic overview.
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