African governments told to go beyond rhetoric and fix youth unemployment now

Delegates after the Opening Ceremony

African governments have been told to exhibit bold political will backed by strong financial commitments to address the huge skills gap and rising unemployment on the continent if they are serious about addressing the problem of youth unemployment.

Additionally, governments are being asked to review educational systems, create special economic zones and insist on good social contracts with multinational organisations if they really mean to drastically reduce unemployment among the youth.

These were parts of recommendations made by Panellists at a High-Level Forum on Youth Employment in the Cameroonian capital, Yaoundé to find solutions to escalating unemployment figures among Africa’s youth.

The forum in Cameroun is part of the 27th Board of Governors Meeting of the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), the specialised agency of the African Union on capacity building.

The two-day event is being attended by government officials of the member countries of ACBF, the donor community, non-governmental organisations and youth group representatives to review existing programmes of action and formulate new mechanisms to address the rising phenomenon.

The youths account for 60 per cent of all of Africa’s jobless, according to the World Bank. In North Africa, the youth unemployment rate is 25 per cent but is even greater in Botswana, the Republic of the Congo, Senegal, and South Africa, among others. With 200 million people aged between 15 and 24, Africa has the largest population of young people in the world.

In most African countries, youth unemployment “occurs at a rate more than twice that for adults,” notes the African Development Bank.

The Cameroonian Minister for Economy, Planning and Regional Development, Alamine Ousmane Mey who opened the meeting said contrary to fears expressed about increasing youth population in Africa, the demographics can be significant advantage to the development of the continent if it is properly managed.

The Executive Secretary of ACBF, Prof Emmanuel Nnandozie called for coherency in policy formulation in youth employment programmes in member states.

The Chairman of the Governing Board of ACBF, Erastus Mwencha took issues with the obvious mismatch between tertiary education systems in most African countries and the job market demands and urged a radical comprehensive review.

Representatives of the World Bank, the African Export and Import Bank and the UNDP who spoke at the meeting pledged technical and financial support for long-term interventions to fix Africa’s capacity needs and youth unemployment.

They demanded special attention to the plight of the youth in Africa to enable them play active role in the continent’s industrialisation agenda.

By Emmanuel J. K. Arthur, in Yaoundé, Cameroon
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