Adesina’s ambitious quest to fix Africa’ youth unemployment

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Staff Reporter

Windhoek-In a quest to fix unemployment among Africa’s young people by the year 2050, the president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, has launched the Presidential Youth Advisory Group to advise him on the best solution for creating jobs for Africa’s youth.

“This is a huge opportunity for Africa. If we fix the youth unemployment challenge, Africa will gain 10 to 20 percent annual growth. That means Africa’s GDP will grow by US$500 billion per year for the next 30 years. Africa’s per capita income will rise by 55 percent every year to the year 2050,” Adesina said at the inauguration of the group.

The creation of the youth advisory group, launched on the sidelines of the 6th EU-Africa Business Forum in Abidjan on November 27, is in line with the bank’s ‘Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy.’

Adesina, who identified Africa’s greatest asset as its youth, observed that out of the 13 million youths that enter the labour market each year, only 3 million (about 33 percent of African youth) are in wage employment, while the rest are underemployed or in vulnerable employment. The annual gap of more than 8 million jobs is going to worsen, with the number of youth expected to double to more than 800 million in the next decades.

“Africa has an unemployment crisis among its youth,” he stressed, noting that unless employment opportunities are created for them, Africa’s rapidly growing population of youths can give rise to serious social, economic, political and security challenges.

Africa’s youth, though strong and dynamic, cross the desert or the Mediterranean Sea because they do not find decent jobs in Africa. Graduates are wandering in the streets, jobless. The low level of employment opportunities also fuels violence and extremism in Africa.

“Forty percent of African youth engaged in armed violence join gangs or terrorist groups because of limited opportunities in their countries,” Adesina said.

“[About] 66 million African youths earn less than US$2 a day (less than N$30 per day) – less than the price of a hamburger,” said Adesina, adding. “Sixty-six million is eight times the size of Switzerland, six times the size of Belgium, the same size as UK, France or Italy, and 80 percent of Germany’s population.”

The youth advisory group is made up of nine individuals who are all under the age of 40 but who have made significant contributions to the creation of employment opportunities for African youth. They comprise individuals from Tanzania, Nigeria, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Rwanda and USA.

“The members of the Presidential Youth Advisory Group are expected to actively engage private sector partners, government leaders, civil society, donor partners, and other stakeholders; and support the significant amount of work that the bank is already doing and promoting across the continent through its Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy,” Adesina said.

To make agriculture more attractive to young people, the AfDB last year invested US$800 million (N$10,9 billion) in supporting young entrepreneurs in agriculture as a business in eight countries. It will reach 15 countries this year. The bank expects to invest 1.5 billion per year for the next 10 years to support young agripreneurs.

The AfDB said it has made great progress toward implementing its strategy through three key pillars: innovation, integration and investment. In terms of integration, the bank entered into a partnership with the International Labour Organisation to strengthen the capacity of African countries to harmonise youth employment into national policies.

The Youth Entrepreneurship and Innovation Multi-Donor Trust Fund will serve as a financial and operational instrument, with initial support of US$4.4 million (N$60 million) by Denmark and Norway.

The bank has also developed the Enabling Youth Employment (EYE) Index to measure youth employment outcomes and enabling policies at country levels.

“With this amazing group of very diverse young individuals, we even hope to exceed the bank’s goal to create 25 million jobs and 50 million youth equipped with the right skills,” said Adesina enthusiastically. “It is time to change the narrative about Africa’s youth!”