Innovation crucial to create jobs in Africa, says Songwe

ECA ET WorldBank 49 003.JPGAfrica needs to innovate in order to create sufficient jobs for its growing youthful population, according to Vera Songwe, executive secretary of Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)

With Africa’s rising population estimated to increase to 1.7bn by 2030, a growth rate of more than eight per cent per annum is needed to create at least 120mn jobs for the youth entering the labour market between now and 2030, said Songwe.

“Africa is growing again but we need to do better and more. It is disheartening every day to see that more Africans are falling into poverty. That is why it is imperative that we are having this discussion of creating jobs on the continent,” Songwe added.

Innovation is a major force for economic growth and development, which is crucial for the continent to create enough jobs for its youth in particular.

“Digitalisation is, now more than ever, playing an important role in Africa’s economic transformation and has the potential to open opportunities to labour markets, moving beyond markets through the free movement of people,” she noted.

“As digitalisation and trade create new opportunities for economic transformation through jobs, it will be important for policymakers to recalibrate policies towards strengthening human capital. Policies geared towards a highly skilled, knowledgeable and healthier population are pertinent in ensuring prosperity and thereby reducing poverty on the continent,” she said.

Akihiko Nishio, vice-president for development finance at World Bank, said, “It was impressive to see how the Ethiopian experience shows that ambitious, forward-looking and well-executed initiatives can have a big impact in supporting transformation and job creation.”

“For most developing countries and development institutions like ours, the need for more and better jobs remains a top development priority. Jobs are a source of income, a means of raising productivity, and for meeting the aspirations of hundreds of millions of people,” said Nishio.

The challenges are daunting, he said, adding Africa will require that at least 15 million jobs be created each year to keep pace with its demographics.

“It means moving workers from lower to higher productivity activities led by a vibrant private sector and supported by public policy actions. This does not happen overnight, but requires committed leadership, sustained investments and efforts, and concerted support from all partners,” added Nishio.

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