Monday, 05 June 2023

Resolving Youth Unemployment in Africa

The continent of Africa is seized with a catastrophe whose antidote seems elusive with the passage of time – Youth Unemployment. Many see it coming, Governments across the continent continue to complain about it, youths are not only anxious but disappointed that generations ahead of them seem to be setting them up for failure through selfishness. The ticking time bomb cannot be ignored forever.

There is now need for urgent concerted effort to reduce the impact in the process of addressing the imminent disaster whose occurrence is almost certain. The threat on national and continental stability is a cause for concern as incidences of sporadic uprisings could eventually become commonplace. 

The rate of delinquency and crime is on the rise in a majority of nations. This note seeks to dig deeper into the issue, find why we find ourselves in this state, the impact it has on economies and families as well as what we need to be doing as a matter of urgency.

The African continent is undergoing profound demographic changes characterised by declining fertility and child mortality rates and rapid population growth. As a result, the continent’s population is estimated to increase from about 1.2 billion people to 2.2 billion people between 2015 and 2050. 

According to COMESA, despite improved growth in some Member States, current growth rates are not adequate to eradicate poverty or achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the region by 2030. Although poverty dropped in several countries, the pace of poverty reduction is very slow and inclusive growth remains elusive. Unemployment rate in many Member States remains high. 

COMESA region, therefore, needs to boost investment from its current average level of 19.2%, which is much lower than 32 % in East Asia and 30-35 % in the Pacific region. Additionally, the region needs to improve productivity and economic diversification.

About 41% of the people in the continent are below 15 years old while another 19% are youth between 15 and 24 years old. Africa’s young population is mirrored in the East African Community where around 45% of the 150 million people in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda are below 15 years and a further 28% are youth between 15 and 24 years old. 

AfDB estimates that in 2050 there will be close to a billion youths on the continent (+850 million) Youth unemployment statistics are staggering with the passage of each day. 

In August 2019 alone, Stats SA in its Quarterly Labour Force Survey revealed that the unemployment rate had shot up to 29% and among young people, unemployment stands at a staggering 39%. 

This trend is worse in some parts of Africa. 

We can choose to fold our hands and react when the time comes, we can start doing something now in a proactive manner and use predictive methods that tell the story of the future so as to ensure by then the impact is less and less. We can also close our eyes and comfort ourselves that we will not be there when disaster hits. However, we stand judged by future generations who will consider it robbery that their future success was snatched from them by those who went ahead of them. 

This paper positions us to think soberly about what we are going to do in a concerted, organised, sustainable manner. Africa owes its children a bright future. The soaring numbers of youths can be an opportunity for the business community, governments as well as the entire population. It is how we choose to look at this situation that matters.

Having looked at the situation as painted above, the desire is to setup a Think-Tank that embodies diversity in its true sense from gender, age, professional status as well as educational achievement. The idea is to ensure the voice of the African youths is heard and their desire for the future is spelt out. 

Rather than giving them a silver bullet, it is important to engage them so that they take up ownership for whatever outcomes this exercise or project will produce. In the end, the think-tank will produce a blue-print that guides various stakeholders on how to work towards a collective agenda. 

The blue-print can be adopted and adapted by African Governments with the help from implementation partners.

Source: SA Stats, African Union, AfDB