Africa is at crossroads over youth joblessness

23Jan 2019
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Africa is at crossroads over youth joblessness

When African leaders converge again for their next Summit on the 30th January, this year, they will hopefully be appending their signature on the document that will chart the path towards achieving the goals of the long drawn theme: "Harnessing the demographic dividend through investment in-

the youth."

The theme had been on the table for the past year and had witnessed various dimensions with the youth themselves fighting hard to be in the driving seat. Yes they will be allowed to be in the driving seat, but they will also need a strong investment from their political leaders for an overall success.

The decisions that will be taken come January will be critical for the survival of Africa's youth which make up a huge chunk of the continent's population. Such decisions must avoid the route of imminent disaster.

Projections show that the continent's youth population is set to double by the year 2050 by which time Africa's population is estimated to reach 2.5 billion, with half being under the age of 25.

For the survival of, and to be fit into this society, the leaders should be projecting for the Africa of tomorrow and not to once again react to the problems of today.

The continent will be in need of 22.5 million new jobs to absorb the millions of young people that will be entering the Africa labour market every year. What this means is that the leaders should be committing themselves to talk about wealth creation and not managing poverty alleviation.

That, sadly, is what obtains today. Any strategic mistake in their decisions to invest in the youth between now and 2020 will spell another disaster for the continent.

The ONE campaign group has been strident in its campaign to the African leadership. With its more than eight million members worldwide ONE has been lobbying governments to spend more on education, health, agriculture, access to energy and job creation among other things with one basic aim, 'end poverty.'

In Africa in particular, where 51 million out of the global 130 million girls are denied the basic right to education, ONE has been putting pressure on the governments to create the avenue for these girls not only to go to school but to also improve outcomes and generate fit-for-purpose skills.

As ONE put it: "Poverty is sexist - it hits girls and women hardest. But educate a girl from a poor community, and it can dramatically improve her health, wealth and potential.

She's less likely to become a child bride, contract disease like HIV, or die young. And she could help lift her family and her entire community out of poverty."

It is true that African leaders have the power to increase investments in education, employment and empowerment, and could make sure every girl gets the chance to go to school and learn. If this is done it will be an opportunity to transform the future of the entire continent.


Leaders must develop and effectively implement policies that promote and support start-ups, flexible labour markets, facilitate the development of labour-intensive sectors that can compete globally, and liberalise trade - all of which will lead to job growth driven by youth's entrepreneurial energy. In addressing job creation they should also take a comprehensive look at training.