• Africa has to create 18 million new jobs per year for the next 20 years in order to absorb its growing labour force, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has revealed in its latest Africa Competitiveness Report. The number of people aged 15 years and above is expected to increase by a half a million each year for the next 20 years, the report suggests.

    The WEF noted that a well-educated workforce will be the single most important driver for transforming Africa’s economies and allowing them to benefit from a demographic dividend.

    “In the short term, absorbing the large number of new labor-market entrants will require the development of job-intensive sectors,” states the report.

    Job intensive sectors such as agriculture and mining employ a high number of people. The development of these sectors has the potential to lower the employment rate as a short term solution while African nations invest in their education systems— a long term solution.

    This will require African countries to dedicate more resources towards ensuring access to education for young people in both rural and urban areas with no gender disparity. This will also translate to a promotion of the participation of girls and women in secondary schools and tertiary institutions.

    Not only should African nations focus on increasing access to education, but also increase the quality of education. This can be achieved through the implementation of the African Union Agenda 2063 aim of ensuring faster movement on the harmonisation of continental curricula standards, programmes and qualifications as well as through the development of Information Communication Technology (ICT) services in African schools and universities.

    The WEF report also noted that Africa’s investment in education may result in a long term increase in the productivity of advanced manufacturing and service sectors in Africa.

    “In the longer term, moving up the value chain into more advanced manufacturing and service sectors while increasing these sectors’ productivity will require significant and immediate investment in education if the workforce is to move beyond simple production processes,” reads  the report.

    Technical and vocational skills development is also crucial in enhancing Africa’s industrial growth hence increasing Africa’s capability to meet the employment demands of its growing labour force. This could increase youths opportunities for employment not only in the manufacturing and service sectors but also individually as mechanics, plumbers or farmers without need for direct employment by large corporations or government.

    The World Bank estimates that Africa has the youngest population in the world, with 200 million people aged between 15 – 24 years. It also estimates that youth account for 60% of all unemployed people in Africa.

    In order to produce 18 million new jobs per year Africa’s youth should also make use of its vibrant energetic nature to explore startups and entrepreneurial business ventures. This can be achieved with the support of African governments and large scale businesses through the establishment of platforms that promote entrepreneurship in Africa such as small to medium- sized enterprise (SME) commissions and ministries as well as youth business funds or start up loans.

    African governments should also promote the growth of young people’s businesses and provision of employment by curbing corruption in the operations of governmental microcredit programmes for SME’s, by providing entrepreneurship education in schools and by ensuring favourable market conditions for various products and services sold and provided by youth start up companies.

    With a combination of education promotion, vocational skills development and government and corporate support, Africa’s youth unemployment problem could be addressed and 18 million new jobs per year may be created.