Creating decent jobs for youth through digital transformation

ILO, ITU and AU host online event about scaling up initiatives that harness Africa’s digital transformation to create decent jobs for youth

On 16 February 2022, the International Labour Organization (ILO), International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and African Union (AU) organized an online event, entitled “Creating decent jobs for youth through digital transformation”. The webinar was held as a side event during the Africa-Europe Week of Partnerships 2022, in the lead-up to the 6th EU-AU Summit in Brussels.

Article | 17 February 2022
Making decent work a reality for young people in Africa is a key priority of the ILO, as reconfirmed in the Abidjan Declaration - Advancing Social Justice: Shaping the future of work in Africa (2019). Promoting digital skills and the use of ICTs for the social and economic empowerment of young people is likewise a priority of the ITU, as expressed in the outcomes of the World Telecommunication Development Conference in 2017 (WTDC-17).

Many young Africans face barriers to accessing decent jobs, a reality further worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Accelerating investment in youth employment remains crucial, especially because economic growth alone cannot be relied upon for sufficient job creation. Digital transformations offer opportunities not only for economic diversification but can also lead to the creation of decent jobs for young women and men.

The discussion was moderated by Lieve Verboven, Director of the ILO Office for the European Union and the Benelux countries, and brought together a panel of high-level speakers from the ILO and ITU, the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ) and youth representatives:
  • Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwon, Assistant Director-General and Regional Director for Africa, ILO
  • Anne-Rachel Inné, Regional Director for Africa, ITU
  • Dennis Horch, Cluster Coordinator for TVET, Skills Development and Employment, GIZ, South Africa
  • Joshua Alade, Executive Director, Nigerian Youth SDG Network
  • Abdul Gafaru Dasana Amin, Youth Envoy, Generation Connect – Africa Youth Group

The panelists explored ways to scale up investments in Africa’s digital economy that will lead to decent job creation for youth. Some key messages they shared included:
  • Development partners need to target their investments to young people’s needs and aim for transformational change. This means supporting initiatives that effect systemic change by tackling all sides of the youth employment challenge, from job creation to skills development and employment services. Speakers highlighted examples of impactful partnerships that cultivate this potential for transformational change, including the ILO/ITU/AU Joint Programme on Boosting Decent Jobs and Enhancing Skills for Youth in Africa’s Digital Economy.
  • Building on existing good practices and engaging in diverse partnerships is critical to scaling up impact. Development partners need to commit to engaging with young people as equal partners. Youth representatives on the panel underscored how youth-led organizations and inclusive platforms are critical for young people to connect with one another and to amplify their voices in policymaking and development initiatives. In addition, more partnerships with private sector entities active in the digital space should be sought out to link young people with employers.
  • Young innovators and youth-led micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) should be supported. Young people need to be seen not just as jobseekers, but as innovators and future employers and investors in the digital economy. To support young people to fulfil this potential, initiatives should meet the particular needs of young women and marginalized groups of young people. Initiatives should also help create enabling policy frameworks and business environments for young digital entrepreneurs.