ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Currently, 70 percent of Africans are under the age of 30. By 2040, 50 percent of the world’s youth will be African, most of whom will be women and girls. With nearly half of the youth population in Africa currently unemployed or inactive—and 72 percent living on less than $2 per day—communities are finding it more urgent than ever to enable new avenues and solutions for the creation of quality jobs that make way for youth livelihoods and productivity. How these communities address this challenge could shape the future of the world in unprecedented ways.
The threat of youth unemployment is not limited to developing countries; even the developed countries face this challenge. The unemployment crisis has become a socio-economic crisis that has impacted the young by increasing the burden of debt, creating a lack of job opportunities and causing resource degradation decreasing the overall quality of life.
Africa, at a scope, is full of young people with great business ideas, raw talent and determination, with the promise of driving the growth of the continent through entrepreneurship. However, young people find it difficult to take their ideas further because they lack the necessary funding, information, skills and opportunities.
There are 200 million people in Africa between 15 and 24 years of age. This represents about 20 percent of the population. According to the Population Research Bureau, Africa has the fastest growing and most youthful population in the world. Over 40 percent of its population is under the age of 15. Africa’s high fertility rate is responsible for this. These demographic findings portend both challenges and opportunities. The challenges are economic and social, which are both highly connected.
As the population expands, jobs must be created. If these jobs are not enough, there will be many young people who are unemployed. According to the International Labor Organization, three out of five unemployed people in Africa are young people.
The 2008 World Bank Report entitled Youth Employment in Africa: The Potential, The Problem and the Promise notes that youth employment is more prevalent in urban areas. Worsening conditions in the rural areas lead to rural-urban migration. This compounds the unemployment challenge in the urban centers. This is clearly evident in many big cities in Africa.
Unemployed youth are readily available for anti-social criminal activities that undermine the stability of a sane society. An unstable society increases the risk of the market. This scares investors. Jorge Saba Arbache of the Africa Region of the World Bank says “unemployed and underemployed youth are more exposed to conflicts and illegal activities–many of them fall prey to armed and rebel conflicts.”
As the Accelerating Entrepreneurship in Africa survey points out, Africans are waking up to the possibilities that entrepreneurship can provide a respectable, desirable and even inspirational career path. Here’s how Africa can create an environment conducive to increased entrepreneurial activity:
- Change individual quality of basic education
- Mindset from those of job seekers to job creators
- Upgrade and expand infrastructure in strategic areas
- Work business and life skills into the educational curriculum
- Seek out opportunities where budding entrepreneurs can be mentored
- Enact legislation and government programs which facilitate entrepreneurship, in the form of tax breaks, grants and other incentives
When it comes to a grand challenge like youth unemployment in Africa, the biggest opportunities for all sectors and institutions to pave their ways of the future is entrepreneurship.
– Adama Dickson Salami
Sources: Forbes, KPMG Africa, Bizzibodi, Capital Campus
Photo: Juliet Asante