Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7)

Guy Ryder: A human-centred approach can create decent jobs for youth in Africa

Speaking at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD7), ILO Director-General Guy Ryder outlined how a human-centred agenda can help boost productivity and create decent jobs for youth in Africa.

Statement | Yokohama, Japan | 29 August 2019
Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

Please allow me to welcome you to this High-Level Dialogue, on behalf of the ILO.

Let me begin by recognizing the presence of the State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, Ms Toshiko Abe, and thanking her for the excellent arrangements made by the Government of Japan for the TICAD7 Conference and for this side-event.

I would further like to recognize many good friends here today:
  • Minister Patel, of South Africa
  • Minister Jobe, of Gambia
  • Mr Mayaki, CEO of the AUDA-NEPAD,
  • Ms Jammeh, Managing Director of COEM,
  • Ms Mohammed, Commissioner for Social Affairs of the African Union,
  • And the Permanent Secretary of the G5 Sahel, Mr Sidiko, whose presence here explains and demonstrates the importance of this event for the countries he covers.
Ladies and Gentlemen,

TICAD7 takes place during the 100th anniversary of the ILO this year. Our Centenary has focused mainly on discussions of the future of work. And their culmination was the adoption of the ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work during our International Labour Conference just two months ago, which centres on a human-centred approach for the future of work – the topic of today’s dialogue, with our focus very much on Africa where, let me recall, 10 to 12 million young people enter the jobs market each year, and 65 million are trapped in working poverty. It is only proper and right that our attention should focus today on jobs for youth – and let me emphasize, I mean decent jobs for youth.

So how do we achieve this? We propose 3 categories of investment:
  • Investment in people – for them to benefit from a changing world of work,
  • Investment in the institutions of work, to ensure adequate protection of all workers and in particular the transition to formality,
  • And investment in sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, and jobs for the future.
One of the overarching messages in the recommendations is the need for investment in infrastructure and in strategic sectors to address the drivers of transformative change in the world of work. Because quality and sustainable infrastructure provides economic, social and environmental benefits that can and must lead to inclusive and productive growth.

While private resource mobilization is certainly key in promoting infrastructure investments, Governments also play a key role in promoting a balanced and inclusive growth and sustainable development. That is recognized for instance in the G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment adopted at the Osaka Summit, under the leadership of the Government of Japan just a few months ago.

Investment in infrastructure, especially in the agricultural, environmental, social and transport sectors, creates jobs and fosters a business-enabling environment. As a result, it can help tackle youth unemployment, while improving productivity, working conditions and earnings. And that means it contributes as well to achieving the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and to realizing the African Union’s Agenda 2063, The Africa We Want. It will do so all the more effectively if it is tailored to meet the demands of young people, by targeting groups in need in a way that will expedite structural transformation into a formal and an inclusive economy.

So Ladies and Gentlemen, how is this human-centred agenda relevant to Africa’s development, particularly when we discuss jobs for youth?

Since 2000, Africa’s fast economic growth has been backed by public infrastructure investment, with African governments investing a total of 45 billion US dollars, which is 7.2 per cent of Africa’s GDP. That is considerable, but it is far less than the estimated 93 billion dollars per year, or 15 per cent of GDP, that the World Bank says is needed to meet the demands for improved infrastructure.

And as always, GDP does not show the entire picture. If we look at these numbers through a human-centred lens, we see that under-investments in infrastructure mean fewer employment opportunities, rural populations with inadequate access to basic services, and a lack of productive opportunities in agriculture for inclusive economic growth. All of this is detrimental to the achievement of decent work and the SDGs.

For its part the ILO, through its Employment-Intensive Investment Programme, has been working with many development and local partners to inject public finance into such investments so as to create jobs and to develop skills for youth in Africa. We have been collaborating closely with the Government of Japan in The Gambia and Mauritania, and with the South African Government through the Expanded Public Works Programme. We look forward to further strengthening these partnerships in order to meet growing demand. Clearly, South-South Cooperation can and I think must play an important role in this.

The ILO has further been helping African partner countries institutionalize such mutual learning processes. We have seen momentum for a stronger and more systemized learning space, as demonstrated by the growing interest from African partners in biannual Regional Seminars of Labour-Based Practitioners.

Technology transfer through triangular cooperation with active development cooperation providers, such as the Government of Japan, can add considerable value to our existing efforts, and we will be most happy to explore new opportunities.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

With these words of introduction, I look forward to hearing the views, and the experiences, of the panelists today. The topic of discussion is highly relevant to the future of work. I think we would all agree that it is also highly relevant to the future of Africa and to the youth who will be central in constructing that future.

Thank you.