‘Youth unemployment must be given top priority’

Africa young manAfrican youth must be prepared for the jobs of the future – not the jobs of the past, according to the African Development Bank (AfDB) president Akinwumi Adesina

Adesina said this during the launch of the Bank's flagship African Economic Outlook.

“Given the fast pace of change, driven by the 4th industrial revolution – from artificial intelligence to robotics, machine learning, quantum computing – Africa must invest more in re-directing and re-skilling its labour force, and especially the youth, to effectively participate,” AfDB president added.

The African Economic Outlook is an annual report that provides updates and forecasts of the continent's economic performance. The theme of the 2020 report is Developing Africa's “Workforce for the Future.”

According to the report two-thirds of Africa's youth are either overeducated or undereducated. The undereducated share (around 55 per cent) is considerably higher than in other regions (36 per cent).

New skills to meet the needs of a 21st-century labour market

With 12 million graduates entering the labour market each year and three million of them getting jobs, youth unemployment is rising annually. Youth unemployment must, therefore, be given top priority, participants heard.

The 2020 African Economic Outlook indicates that skill and education mismatches affect youth labour productivity indirectly through wages, job satisfaction, and job searching. Overeducated African youth earn, on average, 18 per cent less than youth with the same level of education who work in jobs that match their education.

The report contains several recommendations for reversing negative trends and creating productive and adequate workforces. These include designing national strategies for education and skills development that include young people, school dropouts, workers in the informal economy, and in economically and socially disadvantaged groups.

Hanan Morsy, AfDB's director of macroeconomic policy, forecasting and research, said that the fourth industrial revolution offers challenges and opportunities for developing education and accelerating skills acquisition in Africa.

“African countries can achieve universal primary enrollment by just improving the efficiency of education spending. Investing in education and infrastructure offers a greater growth payoff than investing exclusively in either,” Morsy added.

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