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200 million Young Africans, 200 million Opportunities: Joint Initiative on Job Creation for Youth in Africa

News | 12 October 2011

Johannesburg, October 12, 2011 – The youngest population in the world comes from Africa. Youngsters make up more than two thirds of this region’s population, yet they are more likely than adults to be unemployed. In some countries, such as South Africa, Tunisia and Morocco, youth unemployment rates are up to 3 times higher than the rates for adults. This serious jobs gap needs to be addressed rapidly or else it could translate into social tensions as recently witnessed during the Arab Spring.

“Youth is a vital force of society. We need a paradigm shift: we must take charge of our own destinies as Africans. We must be able to have regional integration. Young people must be given opportunities to be exposed and to obtain professional experience. We are at the forefront of changing Africa and the world. We support what happened in Tunisia. We will continue to fight for economic freedom to change the situation of youth in Africa”, said Mr. Ben Duntoye, President of the Pan African Youth Union.

In response to this crisis, four organizations are joining forces to support national governments in their efforts to address the growing problem of youth unemployment in Africa: the African Development Bank (AfDB), African Union (AU), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the International Labour Organization (ILO). “In Cape Verde, the topic of youth (unemployment) has been placed at the heart of our national policies. We cannot fight unemployment without educational programs. Nothing will happen if the youth are not involved in decision making processes”, said H.E Ms. Janira Hopffer Almada, Minister of Youth, Employment and Human Resources Development, Cape Verde.

This joint initiative was introduced today at the ILO’s Twelfth African Regional Meeting which is being held in Johannesburg, South Africa, (11 to 14 October 2011). The joint initiative will be formally endorsed by African Heads of State and Governments at the AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which is scheduled to take place in January 2012.

“The majority of youth in Africa are employed in informal jobs. Young women are twice as likely as young men to be jobless. This joint initiative will address both the unemployed as well as young people who are in precarious and informal employment, with the aim of helping them to transition to more productive jobs which offer a more secure future”, said ILO Director of Employment Policy, Ms. Azita Berar Awad.

Each organization brings a particular strength to the partnership: the AU brings its political clout; UNECA plays a key role with relation to advocacy and analysis in youth unemployment, especially in fragile and conflict affected states and the ILO is the world’s leading agency in the promotion of productive and decent work. Lastly, “the AfDB, as the African premier financial institution, can mobilize financing, convene key stakeholders working on labor and employment issues in Africa (from both the public and private sectors), shape and operationalize policies to tap into Africa’s greatest asset-- human capital- in order to promote inclusive and job-creating growth”, said AfDB’s Social Protection and Poverty Reduction Manager, Ms. Ginette Nzau-Muteta.

This joint initiative aims to create synergies, increase the impact of youth employment activities in Africa among these four institutions and develop broad-based alliances across African ministries and government agencies, social partners, development partners and youth advocates, so as to ensure that youth employment is at the centre of national development frameworks and employment policies. The initiative also seeks to ensure that countries invest in skills development to increase the employability of African youth and that there is sustained political leadership to implement the actions that are deemed necessary. “While the private sector is key to creating jobs in Africa, equally important are governments’ macro economic policies. These should target growth, price stability, and job creation- the last of which is a critical element to growth, said Mr. Emmanuel Nnadozie, Director Economic Development and NEPAD division, UNECA.

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Regions and countries covered: Africa

Unit responsible: Department of Communication (DCOMM)

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