Countries across the continent should boost job creation and help young people acquire new skills, according to a new report.
As a result, over 42% of young people are either unemployed or underemployed in subsistence agriculture
The African Economic Outlook 2012, made public at the start of the AfDB annual meeting in Tanzania, yesterday, says creating productive employment for Africa's rapidly growing young population is an immense challenge but also the key to future prosperity.
In Rwanda, the report says factors most affecting youth unemployment adversely are the problem of skills mismatch with an average skills deficit of 40%, and limited job growth and expansion.
"A mismatch of skills, and limited job growth and expansion are major causes of youth unemployment,"
"As a result, over 42% of young people are either unemployed or underemployed in subsistence agriculture," it says.
Speaking about the report, the Minister of Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana told The New Times, yesterday, that the mismatch could be in view of the inability by some universities and other tertiary institutions of higher learning to create relevant courses that produce employable graduates.
Strong policy frameworks, for skills development and job creation for both urban and rural areas and to increase gender equality, are already in place, the report acknowledges.
"But more needs to be done to translate these policies into tangible impacts."
Several programmes to address youth unemployment have been developed, but there is no systematic interlinkage between these various initiatives and their coverage remains limited, according to the report.
With the number of youths in Africa set to double by 2045, the report argues youth unemployment figures will increase unless Africa moves swiftly to make youth employment a priority, turning its human capital into economic opportunity.
African economy to grow 4.5% in 2012
The African economy should grow 4.5 per cent this year after recovering from the impact of the 2009 global economic crisis and the 2011 North African revolts, the experts predicted in the report.
Growth remained strong in 2011, in Rwanda, the report shows, in spite of global and regional economic uncertainties. The growth was fuelled by good harvests and expansion in credit to the private sector.
However, the report paints a projected slowdown in 2012 and 2013 for the country on account of the government's fiscal consolidation programme, expected to reduce aggregate demand, and of global economic uncertainties.
Between 2000 and 2008, despite world-topping economic growth rates, and a better educated youth, Africa created only 16 million jobs for young people aged between 15 and 24.
Today, the youth represent 60 percent of the continent's unemployed, and of these 40 million youths, 22 million have given up on finding a job, many of them women.
"The continent is experiencing jobless growth," said Mthuli Ncube, Chief Economist and Vice-President of the African Development Bank (AfDB). "That is an unacceptable reality on a continent with such an impressive pool of youth, talent and creativity".
On the other hand, youths can present a significant threat to social cohesion and political stability if they do not secure decent living conditions.
High growth alone is not sufficient to guarantee productive employment. Youth employment is largely a problem of quality in low-income countries and one of quantity in middle-income countries, the report says.
"In low-income countries, most young people work but are poor nevertheless. In African middle-income countries, on the other hand, such as South Africa or the Northern African countries, despite better education, more youth are inactive than working", said Mario Pezzini, Director at the OECD Development Centre.
The report recommends that African countries design better coordinated strategies to effectively tackle youth employment, focusing on job creation in the private sector while providing the right conditions for businesses of all sizes to grow and expand their work force.
In addition, given the small size of the formal sector in many African countries, the report finds that a government focus on the informal sector and rural areas, which contain immense entrepreneurial talent, can serve as engines for inclusive growth since they can absorb higher numbers of unemployed youths.