African Youth Forum

ILO calls for bold political action to promote youth employment in Africa

From Cairo to Cape Town, youth employment is one of the most pressing policy issues in Africa calling for a bold political response and a global methodology, stressed the ILO at a Youth Conference held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

News | 29 January 2014

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (ILO News) – With 10 to 12 million young women and men looking for jobs each year, every African country should place employment creation as a central objective of its macro-economic policies, stated the International Labour Organization (ILO).

“Jobs are created at the local level: country by country, city by city, village by village, sector by sector, enterprise by enterprise, unit by unit (…) every decent job counts”, said ILO Special Representative on Youth and Social Inclusion Charles Dan at the 2014 Africa Youth Forum on Employment in Africa.

More than 250 young Africans from across the continent are meeting at the United Nations Conference Centre (UNCC) to propose alternative solutions to improve and scale-up actions in order to ensure higher impact for job creation for youths. Their representatives will be addressing tomorrow African Heads of State and Government during a working lunch at the African Union Summit.

“We are here for a purpose: youth empowerment and youth employment. The uniqueness of this Conference is the opportunity to dialogue with our leaders – all our leaders (…)”, highlighted former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo whose foundation (OOF) is jointly organizing the Conference together with the African Union Commission.

Today, youth account for 60% of all unemployed Africans, according to the World Bank. Youth unemployment “occurs at a rate more than twice that for adults,” as stated by the African Development Bank. Only a quarter of the labour force has stable, wage-paying jobs. For the ILO, youth unemployment in North African countries remains the highest in the world, reaching more than 29 per cent in 2013.

“Addressing youth unemployment and creating jobs remains one of Africa’s top priorities and access to decent work remains crucial to maintaining the region’s peace and development”, added Abdalla Hamdok, Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

From rhetoric and talks to action and results

Panellists emphasized the need to accelerate youth employment in Africa in view of the current unemployment rates at unprecedented levels. And if growth remains strong, it has not translated into job creation and poverty reduction. Informality and vulnerable employment remain the reality for the vast majority of young workers in the region.

“Africa does not lack diagnoses, proclamations, declarations, decisions, strategies, policies or initiatives. But we also need the appropriate methodologies to implement them”, underlined Charles Dan of the ILO advocating for employment promotion and enterprise development for youth inclusion.

Young people under 25 represent 3/5 of sub-Saharan Africa’s unemployed population, and 70% of the youth population lives on less than $2 a day.

“It is time for us to go beyond platitude and to challenge ourselves to accelerate youth employment in Africa in concrete terms”, urged former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Africa has the youngest population in the world. Current trends indicate that this figure will double by 2045. In the coming decade alone, it is estimated that 122 million people will enter the workforce.

“We must go beyond dialogue to action, move from promises to practices, from commitments to concrete projects, from intentions to implementation””, insisted Abdalla Hamdok of UNECA calling for the expansion of the private sector, encouraging innovation and improving the quality of education as a way of addressing youth unemployment.

Government policies, employability, entrepreneurship, private sector in Africa are some of the key topics discussed by young participants and representatives from different organizations, including the African Development Bank, the UNFPA and the World Bank.

Voices of young Africans

Including young men and women in the development of policies and programs supporting their employment has been identified by participants as a game changer for the way forward.

“Encouraging youth entrepreneurship is critical to harness their enthusiasm, energy, creativity and ambition”, pinpointed the ILO Senior official.

By 2050, Africa’s youth will constitute over a quarter of the world’s labour force. “Youth organizations should be invited to participate in action-oriented plans and strategies with concrete measures, timeframes and benchmarks“, suggested the UNECA delegate.

“The issue of youth employment in Africa is to provide concrete answers to their existential questions”, concluded young Aboubakar from West Africa.

The proceedings of AYF 2014 will be summarized in a “White Paper on Youth Employment in Africa”. The document will be distributed to all African Heads of State and shared with important decision-makers across Africa and globally.