Youth employment: a flagship issue for the continent’s stability

Friday, February 19, 2016

Unemployment affects the vast majority of young people on the African continent. There are several reasons for this: the global financial crisis, the demographic explosion of the continent, but also, and I would like to address this today, the issue of training.

Today, half of the 1.1 billion of Africans is under 25: this population is expected to double to reach 2.4 billion people by 2050. Young people now represent about 40% of the working age population, but over 60% of them are unemployed. This population explosion has a very logical consequence: there are more applicants than jobs to be filled. But the causes of this time bomb go beyond that. Indeed, for a long time, African countries made a priority of “education for all”, so that everyone could learn to read and write. If this is indeed essential, it is equally obvious that the role of education in development cannot be limited to literacy. It is crucial to adapt the education system to economic realities: for example, in 2013, 75% of persons who had passed the Baccalaureate had specialized in arts , against 25% in sciences, although we know that the human sciences do not really match the current economic needs in Africa. Also, besides the fact these graduates cannot find jobs matching their qualifications, we must also take into account the millions of young Africans who have not completed primary school and who are struggling to enter the job market.

It is therefore essential today to adapt education and training systems to African economic needs: this means increasing the number of technical and professional trainings but also strengthening the relevance of these trainings and the content of their programs, in relation to the private sector. It is indeed important to address the real needs of the economic actors and to collaborate with them to find solutions: today, it is no longer about training to qualify, but rather about training to integrate. The NEPAD project which promotes human resource development in the area of nursing and midwifery integrates that vision : within that frame, a number of students have been able to complete master’s degree programmes and acquire work experience in this field. The Chinese Government also pledged a sum of US$1.5 million for further training of nurses at a master’s degree level in three countries within the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS). The project was also awarded the Spirit of Philanthropy Award from “Sigma Theta Tau International” in the United States of America.

Today, we must be in line with that dynamic. The design of a continental youth development programme is under way. The programme, while aiming to enhance the engagement of youth in gainful employment, will have a dedicated focus on building skills. Once again, I urge the social, economic and political African elites to take on the problem: we must answer the challenge of youth employment by setting up strategies to offer everyone decent jobs and reduce inequality. This is a key point for the future of Africa, so that it becomes a continent that takes advantage of its demographic richness to step into a new dynamic: the one of stability and sustainable growth.

 

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