Youth unemployment in Africa is a much more serious problem than climate change and ought to be dealt with urgently, the Executive Secretary of the Africa Capacity Building Foundation, Prof. Emmanuel Nnadozie has said.
The World Employment Social Outlook (WESO) trends reports 2017 of the International Labour Organisation forecast the unemployment rate in sub-Saharan Africa to stand at 7.2 per cent in 2017, unchanged from 2016.
The report noted that while the unemployment rate remains stable, the number of unemployed is expected to increase from 28 million in 2016 to 29 million in 2017 due to the region’s strong labour force growth.
The report however clarified that while the regional unemployment rate does not convey the considerable cross-country heterogeneity, in particular, it masks persistently high unemployment in South Africa, where the unemployment rate, which stood at over 25.9 per cent in 2016, is expected to continue to climb, to reach more than 26 per cent by 2018.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with ghanabusinessnews.com in Accra Thursday April 5, 2018, when asked if Africa has the silver bullet to solve the continent’s youth unemployment, Prof. Nnadozie responded: “No. If we have the silver bullet this will no longer be a problem, it will have disappeared. And there is practically no African country that doesn’t have this as their number one challenge.”
He adds, “I have been weighing between this challenge and climate change. Which one is the most serious one? But I think youth unemployment is Africa’s number one problem.”
Asked if it was greater than climate change, he answered “absolutely.”
“It is happening before our eyes, it is about human beings. Development is about human beings and development will take human beings to bring it about. If you are not able to empower people by giving them jobs, because when people are unemployed, there is an individual dimension, there is a societal dimension and an economic dimension. The individual dimension is – Imagine after getting an education and one or two years after you have no job. The dignity of job is not about pay. There are people who just need jobs,” he said.
I have been weighing between this challenge and climate change. Which one is the most serious one? But I think youth unemployment is Africa’s number one problem.
He called on African governments to tackle the issue of unemployment or else they will have the people they don’t want employing these young people employing them. He then gave the examples of Boko Haram and the Arab Spring that took advantage of unemployed youth to destabilise governments.
“These groups are employing young people who have no jobs and are hopeless. We are seeing many young people migrating through the desert and so on. These issues require extreme and urgent attention, whether this attention is given in the strongest possible way and the urgency it requires I have my doubts about it,” he said.
In his opening remarks at the ongoing 5th Africa Think Tank Summit being held in Accra Ghana, he indicated that the theme of the Summit; “Tackling Africa’s Youth Unemployment Challenge: Innovative Solutions from Think Tanks” is aimed at informing decision-makers and solution-seekers on how think tanks can and will support the fight against youth unemployment – paying special attention to dimensions around transformative leadership development, providing a conducive environment for a thriving private sector, and development of critical skills required by the labour market.
“This is to again buttress the fact that our think tanks in Africa, most of which have been supported by ACBF, in terms of their creation or sustenance, have matured over time and have become very competent in providing policy research, advice and advocacy on the challenges facing our continent and we should trust and support them as well as fully utilize their expertise,” he said.
He noted that the Summit has become an important platform for sharing knowledge and good practices while defining solutions on how to make sure that African think tanks play their role in supporting the continent’s socio-economic transformation.
The Finance Minister of Ghana, Mr. Ken Ofori-Atta in his presentation, said the country is making significant strides in intensifying efforts at tackling youth unemployment with the Youth Employment Agency established under the Youth Employment Act 2015 (Act 887) to empower young people to contribute meaningfully to the socio-economic and sustainable development of the nation.
He said African countries have embarked on the implementation of Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030 which are all aimed at sustaining the ‘Africa rising’ narrative.
The main goal is to achieve ‘an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens, representing a dynamic force in the international arena’. Think tanks in Africa can and should make significant contributions to the design, implementation and monitoring and evaluation of innovative economic and social policies.
For instance, in every country think tanks should be leading in advising on the adequate fiscal policies for long-term and inclusive economic growth, the required policies for financial sector regulations to prevent crises yet conducive to promoting needed financial innovations, and the effective ways for public sector management, he said.
“More importantly, now that all countries are looking for solutions to finance Agenda 2063, the Sustainable Development Goals and their national development plans, think tanks are called upon to support countries find the best and innovative ways to mobilize domestic resources. ACBF and the other key partners such as AUC, AfDB, and ECA have done some works which can serve as basis for you,” he said.
Making reference to a 2017 ACBF study, he said Africa had 226 million youth in 2015, which is estimated to increase by 42 per cent, to reach 321 million by 2030. Recent data from the World Development Indicators also shows that, today, the unemployment rate for the continent is around 8.0 per cent corresponding to a total unemployment of 38.1 million. In addition, a paper published in 2016 by the African Development Bank on “job for youth” shows that while 10 to 12 million youth enter the workforce each year, only 3.1 million jobs are created, leaving vast numbers of youth unemployed, he noted.
“Consequently, we see hundreds of thousands of young people leaving the continent. Migration and related challenges are indeed caused by discontent with the social situation and a lack of decent job opportunities. Overall, the World Employment Social Outlook 2018 shows that the share of people willing to move abroad remained the highest in sub-Saharan Africa, at 32.1 per cent in 2016 (against 30 per cent in Latin America),” he said.
He therefore called on think tanks to directly contribute to the creation of jobs by hiring young researchers and professionals and indirectly by equipping and mentoring the youth to realize their full potential for employability and self-employment.
“The need for local knowledge and expertise to Africa’s challenges such as youth unemployment is also an opportunity for African think tanks to expand outreach to policy actors, raise awareness of their services with government, and improve the accessibility of their research. Finally, and this is your core mandate, you can provide research-based evidence and data to governments, law-makers, the private sector, and civil society organizations for sound decision-making,” he said.
Commenting on Ghana, he said evidence shows that youth ages 15–24 are much less likely to be working than adults ages 25–65.
“Indeed, slightly more than half of young people are working (52 per cent) compared with most other adults (89 per cent). This partly reflects the fact that young people are still in school, but, at the same time, a larger share of young people are neither in education nor working, compared with other adults.
While the reasons for youth unemployment are varied, they include the deficits in basic education and job-relevant skills, the lack of job search experience to facilitate job acquisition through working experience, and the difficulties in obtaining information about career options. Cognizant of the youth unemployment phenomena as a developmental challenge in Ghana, several measures have been introduced to enhance the employability of the youth,” he said.
According to the Minister, besides the policies such as the National Youth Policy, “Towards an Empowered Youth, Impacting Positively on National Development,” launched in 2010, the government has developed several programmes to tackle youth unemployment, and cited the National Youth Employment Programme restructured into the Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency, and now redesigned as the Youth Employment Agency under Act 887 in 2015, as an example.
“The Agency is doing great to empower young people to contribute meaningfully to the sustainable socioeconomic development of Ghana. The Youth Employment Agency is but 1 of 17 public sector initiatives related to youth employment, albeit the largest in terms of youth coverage,” he said.
The Summit will end on April 7.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
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