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Sustainable development

Business leaders discuss recipes for job-rich growth in Africa

Africa is one of the fastest growing economic regions in the world but a large portion of its population still lives in poverty. A recent panel discussion held at the ILO analysed the way forward from a business perspective.

Press release | 20 March 2013
GENEVA – Unemployment in Africa is only 9 per cent but of those who are employed, just 28 per cent have a stable job in the formal economy. Why is that? And how do we translate economic growth into business development, and then business development into job creation?

These were some of the key questions raised during a roundtable on “Sustaining growth and accelerating the pace of job creation in Africa”. The panel discussion, which took place during the ILO’s Governing Body, was organized by the International Organisation of Employers, (IOE), and brought together prominent business leaders from Africa.

“We need a job-creating growth. We all agree on the solution: access to finance; infrastructure; necessary regulation; the link between public and private sector; skills development,” said ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, in his opening remarks.

Africa will create 54 million more stable jobs by 2020."
“The area of critical importance is the need to formalize jobs in the informal economy and in the rural economy. The core issue is to create stable wage-paying jobs at a faster pace,” he added.

“On current GDP projections, Africa will create 54 million more stable jobs by 2020. But drawing on the experience of other countries, such as Thailand, South Korea or Brazil, it has the potential to generate 72 million jobs over the course of the decade,” said IOE Secretary-General Brent Wilton.

“A normal path can’t do the job: by 2020, the African economy is projected to add 220 million people to the workforce, creating a continent-wide labour force of more than 500 million,” he added.

Participants agreed that there are positive demographic trends in Africa, but that the continent needs to create jobs at a faster pace to absorb its growing labour force.

Video highlights of the roundtable on sustaining growth and job creation in Africa

Also, employment strategies should focus on sectors with the biggest job-creating potential. Retail, hospitality, manufacturing and agriculture, would account for the lion’s share of private-sector growth.

Boosting job creation

Linus Gitahi, CEO of Nation Media Group, (Kenya), insisted on the need to invest in innovation and new technologies: “Africa is not disadvantaged at all in this field. On the contrary,” he said.

Many of the panellists confirmed that the continent’s workforce is more educated than is commonly perceived but they said that African decision-makers, as well as business leaders, should create opportunities for individuals to gain work experience and develop the skills that businesses need.

65 per cent of the labour force is composed of women and young people."
“65 per cent of the labour force is composed of women and young people,” said Albert Yuma, IOE Vice-President for Africa and Chairman of the Board of Gecamines, (Democratic Republic of the Congo).

“We should help the creation of new enterprises by young entrepreneurs and give them the skills to succeed,” he added.

The development of human capital was also highlighted by Jamal Belahrach, President of Manpower Morocco and French territories.

“27 per cent of young graduates are unemployed in Morocco. 8 million people are living under the poverty line. What are the jobs of tomorrow? A proper business forecast is fundamental,” he said.

“Focusing on these important issues, the ILO has the potential to help Africa move forward on the path of job creation and inclusive growth,” ILO Director-General Guy Ryder concluded.