14 May 2013

Africa: Boosting Youth Employment Through Digital Jobs

Photo: Ericsson
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to bring a high quality education to students everywhere (file photo).

Cape Town — The announcement by the Rockefeller Foundation of an initiative to create jobs in Africa focusing on the digital field has been lauded as an important strategy by Jack Leslie, chairperson of Weber Shandiwick, a leading public relations firm. "Digital holds tremendous opportunity for Africa," Leslie said, particularly for Africa which "holds great promise".

Leslie believes that the economies of the region are going to have to be broad-based to meet the demands of young people going into the job market, saying that the digital field - despite it being the fastest growing arena - "will not absorb them all".

Digital Jobs Africa (DJA), which will be led out of the foundation's Nairobi office, will focus on South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt and Morocco where Rodin believes DJA will have the "greatest impact" because of growth in its urban population. "For the first time, a majority of people live in cities. Some of the biggest increases in urban population have been seen right here in Africa, with 85% of the population expected to live in cities by 2025, " Dr Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, said at the launch of the project at the World Economic Forum in Cape Town.

In an era where the current pace of job creation doesn't meet the increased demand for jobs among young people, economic growth initiatives like this will do much to improve the wellbeing of the continent's youth. "Africa's youth population is expected to double to 400 million by 2045 and the working age population is set to exceed China and India by 2050. This combined with the growth in globalisation, urbanisation, digitization on the continent presents both challenges and opportunities on the continent," Rodin said.

The goal of the DJA project is to change one million lives in seven years. The foundation, which celebrates 100 years of working to improve the wellbeing of humanity in 2013, will pump U.S.$97 million into the initiative. "This investment seeks to change the lives of high-potential youth by recognising the enormous talent of young people who lack access to quality sustainable employment opportunities," Rodin said.

In a move to support the creation of digital jobs, the foundation is partnering with governments, development organisations and the private sector to reach their goal.

"The DJA will have three components, namely jobs, training and co-ordination.

"We'll work to create jobs in three ways. By catalysing the social responsibility arm of the business process to motivate industry to employ individuals who would otherwise not have an opportunity for sustainable employment. We are also leveraging the rising demand from African-based companies to train and identify young people of promise and it is an opportunity for governments who are thinking about using e-government platforms to employ these young people.

"This is a win-win for all - cutting costs in many cases by 40%, while increasing incomes for workers by 40% to 200%," Rodin said.

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