If youth is our future, then we are already behind schedule, says AfDB President

Akinwumi Adesina Eric Roset African Progress Panel African FarmingAkinwumi Adesina at the African Progress Panel in 2014. (Image sourced: Eric Roset/Commons)A high-level conference organised by the African Development Bank at its headquarters in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire discussed a number of issues concerning the future of African youth

High youth unemployment leads to economic and political instability, and fuels the migration crisis, AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina warned as he addressed the first West African Ministerial Conference on Youth Employment in Africa. “Today, we see a disturbing trend,” Adesina said. “Africa’s youth, on their own will, jump into rickety boats, fleeing to Europe – by all means possible. What began like a trickle is fast becoming a torrent. They have lost hope, triggering a migration crisis. The migration crisis to Europe is an embarrassment for Africa.

“And the reason this is happening is obvious: Out of the 13mn youths that enter the labour market each year, only 3mn get jobs. Just about 33 per cent of the youth are in wage employment, while the rest are underemployed or in vulnerable employment. To be plain: Africa has a job crisis.

“Africa’s rapidly rising population, which will reach 2bn by 2050, is a huge potential asset. It is expected that the population of the youth will double from the current 480mn to reach 840mn by 2050. That means Africa will be the youngest continent in the world.

“Unless we create employment opportunities for them, Africa’s rapidly growing population of youths can give rise to serious social, economic, political and security challenges.”

President Adesina pointed out the urgent need for action, stating, “If youth is our future, then we are already behind schedule,” in providing them access to credit and affordable financing for their projects. 

The goal of the high-level meeting was to forge partnerships and to work towards improved policies, strategies, programs and projects focused on youth employment and entrepreneurship in the region.

The Bank’s Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy (JfYA) was presented during the meeting and participants had the opportunity to get acquainted with its flagship programs. Panelists explored possibilities for sustainable solutions to the youth unemployment crisis, its medium- and long-term impact and the creation of a better business climate that will lead to decent and sustainable jobs for youth.

The high-level event was attended by, among others, the Ministers of Finance and Youth Employment, youth organizations, business leaders, universities and representatives of civil society. In his opening address, Adesina said he was honoured to welcome the Ministers and representatives from Côte d'Ivoire, the conference host, and from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Niger, Togo, Senegal, Liberia, Gambia, Mali, Nigeria, Benin and Sierra Leone. Adesina added that their presence sent a strong signal of the “political will” from the countries of the sub-region to address the issue of youth employment. 

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