The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has warned that the persistent issue of youth unemployment in Africa is “a time bomb that could explode any time” if nothing is done.
The United Nations Labour body is convening a meeting with all African Labour Ministers, experts and labour activists, to find ways of creating a roadmap for decent work on the continent.
While unemployment numbers among the youth remain a stumbling block, ILO experts warn that “lack of political will” by governments is at the forefront of all causes.
“The issue of youth unemployment in Africa is like a time bomb that is yet to explode if there is nothing done. There is still lack of political will to solve this,” warned Sukti Dasgupta, Chief Employment and Labour Markets Branch at ILO.
The four-day 14th African Regional Meeting which started on Tuesday, December 3 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, brings together the ILO’s tripartite constituents representing governments, workers and employers from 54 African countries.
Apart from the youth unemployment in Africa, the meeting is also reviewing the progress made in implementing the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda and charting a course towards a future with decent work in the region.
In Africa, only three million formal jobs are created annually.
But youth in Africa often do not have the skills required by employers – despite improved access to education over the past several decades.
In most cases, young graduates with the required skills are sometimes vulnerable to employment due to lack of experience that is always placed first by employers.
In an interaction with KT Press during a media session themed “Brighter Future for Africa’s Youth: Making Decent Work a Reality”, Sukti Dasgupta stated that there is a mismatch between skills and unemployment.
“There is a mismatch between unemployed and skills. To solve this, governments should provide incentives to employers in order for them to employ more people,” she said.
According to Dasgupta, 90% of young Africans are informally employed while growth of labour force in Africa remains at 3%.
Africa remains the only continent with huge opportunities to provide decent jobs to its citizens in future, but existing challenges need to be moved away first, according to ILO Director General Guy Ryder.
His statement at the opening of the meeting referred to projections for economic growth in Africa that are higher than the global average – a ‘demographic dividend’ that will see labour force numbers rising to 60 per cent as a result of the continent’s unique potential for creating renewable energy; and opportunities for development that could be opened up by advances in technology.
“Africa has every reason to regard the future with confidence. Young, rich in resources, dynamic and creative, it offers possibilities which in many ways, do not exist in other regions. However, as always, there are challenges,” Rayder stated.
Among the existing challenges he mentioned include the need to create twenty-six million jobs every year in Africa to meet the objectives of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
This means that atleast each of the 54 African countries needs to create nearly 482,000 jobs every year.
Rwanda’s take on unemployment
Rwanda has been responding to the unemployment challenges.
Under its 7-year strategic plan adopted in 2017, the country set a target to create 1.5 million off-farm jobs or 125,000 off-farm jobs every year.
In general, the country has set a target to create 200,000 every year.
The country’s demographic dividend currently has only 27 percent youth in the workforce of the estimated population of 12 million people.
On the continent, other challenges Rayder mentioned include a social protection annual financing gap amounting to $68 billion; economic, social and migratory pressures; and the impact of climate change and globalization.
As part of the journey to promote decent work, todate, the ILO has adopted 190 Conventions and 206 Recommendations.
These include the new Convention and accompanying Recommendation to combat violence and harassment in the world of work which were adopted at the Centenary International Labour Conference (ILC) in June this year in Geneva – Switzerland.
African countries have not fully ratified these conventions. Rwanda ratified 34 Conventions.
The state of youth unemployment in Africa
According to ILO, with 1.3 billion population, Africa is home to a labour force that is almost 500 million people as of this year.
By 2030, ILO says, the size of the labour force will have grown to 676 million, a staggering 40 per cent increase, driven by the rapidly growing number of youth labour market entrants.
The continent is world’s youngest with 60 per cent of its people under 25 years old – constituting 60 per cent of the population.
Projections show that by 2030, almost one fifth of the global labour force – and nearly one third of the global youth labour force – will be from Africa.
The youth unemployment rate (age bracket 15–24) in all African sub regions is higher than overall unemployment – estimated at 12 per cent (females) and 11.8 per cent (males) respectively, on average, in 2019.
The share of youth not in education, employment or training was projected at 26.8 per cent (females), 16.3 per cent (males) and 21.4 per cent (total) in 2019, according to available figures from ILO.