Nouakchott — Monetary experts recently met in Mauritania to study the prospects for economic growth and potential it has to address the country's persistent unemployment.
The aim of the December 19th workshop was to assess the employment situation in the country, constraints on job creation and the role of the public and private sectors.
"This workshop will enable the participants to gauge how well vocational training caters to the ever-changing needs of the labour market," Economic Affairs Minister Sidi Ould Tah said.
The minister said that "employment poses a challenge which can only be met if there is an acceptable and sustainable level of growth."
"Growth on its own is not enough to overcome the challenge of employment unless it happens for everyone and unless the conditions are right to take advantage of it in terms of creating job opportunities," he noted.
Ould Tah added: "The main cause of unemployment in our country is the fact that training does not adequately cater to the needs of the labour market."
The minister also said that the government had "developed an ambitious vocational training policy which takes the changing needs of the labour market into account".
During her speech at the opening of the workshop, Catherine Baumont-Keita, lead economist at the African Development Bank, said: "The Mauritanian government has put the issue of youth employment at the heart of its priorities."
"Recent events in some North African countries show the extent to which unemployment of young people, and young graduates in particular, is a real challenge for states and can be a cause of institutional and social instability," she added.
Baumont-Keita added: "In launching this study, the bank hopes to help Mauritania in its efforts to ensure that growth creates more jobs and translates into inclusive development. This study could serve as an argument for supplying additional resources to the country."
According to Professor Mohamed Ball, job growth is becoming an important aspect of efforts to achieve economic and social development.
"Now that the unemployment rate exceeds 30%, boosting employment has become a priority for the country's economic policy," the professor said, adding that "over the last few years, the government has incorporated efforts to tackle the unemployment of young graduates into the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper through the unemployed graduate integration programmes implemented by the Commission for Human Rights, Poverty Reduction and Integration."
However, Ball underlined that "the poor performance of the Mauritanian education system and its failure to address the needs of the labour market have resulted in large shortages of skilled workers."
"It's not studies that we're short of. The government must take real measures to meet demand, which is growing day by day," commented Sidi Ould Kerkoub, an unemployed young graduate. "Today, there are nearly 20,000 unemployed graduates registered at Youth Employment Agency (ANAPEJ). Tens of thousands of others aren't even registered."
Mohamed Diop, another unemployed graduate, said he noticed things were "starting to move along".
"In all regions of the country, training centres offering qualifications that are in line with the needs of the job market and live up to the expectations of the private sector are being set up," he added. "There is also a focus on technical and vocational training, which is a good thing."