China — African nations must do more to tackle the problem of unemployment among young people which could derail economic progress if left unchecked, a senior official from the African Development Bank (AfDB) said on Monday.
"The situation of youth employment thus deserves urgent attention. Not only does it threaten to violate the principle of quality and solidarity between generations, which is an important aspect of social justice this therefore calls for a paradigm shift, " Mthuli Ncube, the bank's chief economist and vice-president said at a high level regional policy dialogue on youth employment in Lusaka, the Zambian capital.
According to him, leveraging "this youth cohort productively and effectively" could lead to prolonged economic growth and a substantial reduction in poverty on the African continent. While acknowledging that Africa has recorded unparalleled and sustained economic development in the past decade, the official expressed concern that the growth had not generated the number of jobs necessary to absorb the 10-12 million young people entering the labor market each year."Governments have found it difficult to bridge the gap between economic growth and job creation. This raises profound policy implications for African governments in terms of economic inclusion, social cohesion and global competitiveness," he said. "This challenge is formidable and unless there are significant changes in the policy environment, there are likely to be considerable consequences for young people, with associated risks of social unrest and loss of faith in social progress," he added.
The official however expressed happiness that some countries in southern Africa have started putting in place policies to address youth unemployment but added that governments should prioritize measures that target young people most at risk by strengthening apprenticeship and other vocational training programs for low- skilled youths. While decrying the high unemployment levels in Africa, the official said the fact that Africa has the youngest population in the world presents the continent with an enormous opportunity but indicated that policymakers need to properly nurture the young generation.
The AfDB in collaboration with the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) have since put in place a joint initiative to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of youth employment efforts in Africa. The initiative is aimed at facilitating the implementation of existing plans, with the long-term objective of boosting youth employment in Africa and providing a response to challenges faced.
According to a ILO report, 40 percent of the jobless people in the world are young people and this is estimated at 75 million people. In 2012, it is estimated that the figure will increase to about 79 million.