“Africa has a youthful population made up of enthusiastic and energetic young people who, were sufficient supportive policies and programmes in place, could drive the social and economic prosperity of the continent.”
Africa will be home to one-fourth of the world’s population. According to the African Union, 65 percent of Africa’s 1 billion population is under 35. The job market grows by 10 to 12 million young Africans each year. Africa is therefor, characterised as a youthful continent.
However, according to the African Development Bank Group, of Africa’s nearly 420 million youth aged 15-35, one-third are unemployed, another third are vulnerably employed and only one in six is in waged employment. How does Africa harness this growing working-age population and convert a potential demographic burden into a demographic dividend?
Leveraging the demographic dividend for Africa’s growth and prosperity
Africa is a continent of tremendous wealth and enormous untapped potential. In this context, investing in education, skills development and job creation become critical for the future of the continent. If properly harnessed, this growing working-age population has the potential to drive Africa’s economic transformation. Evidence shows a correlation between skills, education, productivity, and economic growth and prosperity. Providing young people with skills and education boosts their capacities to work and enhances their opportunities at work. The future success of any country depends ultimately on the number of persons in employment and how productive they are at work
Investing not just for the sake it!
Investing in skills, therefore not only makes sense but is imperative. However, to derive the benefits, the investments must be made in developing skills in jobs that exist or will be needed in the future. There is often a mismatch between education (supply) and labour market needs (demand). Resulting in many young people existing formal education programmes but not being absorbed into the labour market. Several studies show that the public and private sectors across many countries are not able to find appropriately skilled human resources to fulfill their needs. Current labour market information regarding economic trends and patterns; and emerging markets and sectors must drive investments. Intelligence from the labour market information should furthermore guide education and training policy frameworks and strategies at a national and regional level.
Investment happens in a system: the sum is greater than the parts
The ecosystem within which skills are developed and jobs created needs to be robust, inclusive, and integrated. There are multiple stakeholders, each with a respective role to play, but collectively, they need to anticipate skills needs, make decision making about skills training and education strategy and provision. Establishing mechanisms that bring stakeholders together to connect dots, learn from good practice, avoid duplication become critical factors that enable beneficial investment. Stakeholders involved in skills development and job creation must, therefore, find ways to strengthen their interconnections.
ILO report: Youth Employment Interventions In Africa