Dakar — The African Institute for Economic Development and Planning (IDEP), in collaboration with the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), recently organized a seminar seeking solutions to the unemployment challenge facing the youth in Africa.
Titled 'Youth Employment in Africa: How to take advantage of the opportunity of the demographic dividend?' the course was part of a training program being given by the institutions on population projections.
The seminar was held at IDEP headquarters in Dakar, Senegal.
Employment and demographic dividend are at the heart of international agendas, namely the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs 8, 5, 1 and 4) and Africa's 50year developmental plan, Agenda 2063. African leaders have been giving the issue much attention as they seek to ensure the youth are gainfully employed in their respective countries.
One of the Africa's greatest challenges remains youth employment. The seminar made strong recommendations asking African leaders to seize the opportunity of the demographic dividend and involve the youth in political and economic activities in their countries.
Africa's population is the youngest in the world. According to official forecasts it will reach 400 million people aged between 15 and 24 years by 2045. This means that the African working population will increase, with less children and elders to take care of.
The major challenge is to invest in young generations, now more than ever, to provide them with decent jobs and prevent risks related to the increasing idleness of people, which are vulnerability and poverty, breaking off relations and social instability, organized crime and terrorism, illegal migration, among other scourges.
The seminar gathered policymakers, African member States diplomats and international organizations, as well as Senegalese private sector representatives, academics and other experts working on issues related to Africa's economic and social development.
This seminar enabled the review of the African and Senegalese demographic profiles and also allowed participants to discuss the relevance and the effectiveness of demographic dividend policies.
Mr. François Pelletier, the representative of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), introduced demographic dynamics in Sub-Saharan Africa and projections on the trend of the structure by age of its population.
Indeed, from a demographic stand point, the demographic transition is considered as a favorable period for economic development, investment in social systems and human development in the continent.
The representative of the United Nations Population Fund Regional Office, Dr. Justin Koffi, and Regional Coordinator of Sahel Women's Empowerment and Demographic Dividend (SWEDD), underscored the fact that the demographic dividend should not be seen as a foregone conclusion, but as a process gained through economic reforms which creates jobs, investments in human capital and good governance.
Mr. Mayacine Camara, the representative of the Senegalese Ministry of Economy and Finance and Head of the Directorate of Planning and Economic Policies, focused his presentation on the way his country intends to make the most of the demographic dividend, in particular by bringing economic reforms and social sector development at the forefront of its strategies.
According to Mr. Mamadou Bousso, research worker at the Center of Applied Economics and Finance Research of Thiès University (CREFAT), it is necessary to substantially reduce the dependence ratio in African countries and prevent the working population from returning to precariousness, after they retire at 65 years.
Young entrepreneur, Mr. Sobel Aziz Ngom, the Executive Director of Social Change Factory, emphasized the need to develop a participatory and inclusive approach in formulating youth unemployment reduction policies and to match skills with employment market needs.
Besides presentations and discussions, the meeting enabled participants to share their concerns and formulate the following recommendations:
- Need for better coordination of the multi-sectoral approach to demographic dividend policies implementation on the continent;
- Adapt curricula to match the future industrial development of the continent;
- Modernize agriculture and fishing in order to improve the productivity of family systems and increase of value added in food industries;
- Ensure social protection and integrate the informal sector by focusing on decent employment for youngsters and women;
- Promote self-employment by ensuring technical capacity building through vocational and technical training, mandatory community service, and easy access to funding.