6 March 2019

Africa: ECA Urges Africa to Focus On Innovation, Create Decent Jobs

Addis Ababa — Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) has urged Africa to innovate if the continent is to create sufficient decent jobs for its growing youthful population.

Speaking at a joint ECA-World Bank roundtable on jobs and economic transformation, Executive Secretary, Vera Songwe said with Africa's rising population, estimated to increase to 1.7 billion by 2030, a growth rate of more than 8 per cent per annum is needed to create more job opportunities.

According to the Executive Secretary, at least 120 million jobs are needed for the youth entering the labor market between now and 2030.

"The question around jobs and economic transformation is one that almost every African leader is worrying about," she said, adding immediate action on all fronts was imperative to address the continent's job challenges in a structural way.

Inspite of the fact that Africa is registering growth, unemployment is still a bottle neck in the continent, she stated.

"Africa is growing again but we need to do better and more. It is disheartening every day to see that more Africans are falling into poverty. That is why it is imperative that we are having this discussion of creating jobs on the continent," Songwe added.

Innovation is a major force for economic growth and development, which is crucial for the continent to create enough jobs for its youth in particular, she indicated.

Furthermore, she said "Digitalization is, now more than ever, playing an important role in Africa's economic transformation and has the potential to open opportunities to labor markets, moving beyond markets through the free movement of people."

She also emphasized on the need for African economies to stimulate adequate industrialization through increased intra-African trade.

"As digitalization and trade create new opportunities for economic transformation through jobs, it will be important for policy makers to recalibrate policies towards strengthening human capital," she insisted.

Vice President for Finance Development at the World Bank, Akihiko Nishio, said on his part it was fitting that they were discussing jobs and economic transformation in Ethiopia.

Having visited Ethiopia's Bole-Lemi Industrial Park the previous day, he said; "It was impressive to see how the Ethiopian experience shows that ambitious, forward-looking and well executed initiatives can have a big impact in supporting transformation and job creation."

"For most developing countries and development institutions like ours, the need for more and better jobs remains a top development priority. Jobs are a source of income, a means of raising productivity, and for meeting the aspirations of hundreds of millions of people," said Nishio.

The challenges are daunting, he said, adding Africa will require at least 15 million jobs to be created each year to keep pace with its demographics.

He said tackling the job challenges requires economic transformation.

The joint workshop focused on three topical areas: digital transformation, trade and global value chains, and human capital for jobs.

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