By: Razanne Chatila
As many as 11 million young Africans are expected to join the labor market every year for the next decade, according to a new World Bank report making the future of Africa looking a lot more prosperous. During the 4th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland from January 22-25, world leaders gathered together where the challenges faced by youth around the globe topped the agenda. Africa, as the world’s youngest continent with 70 percent of the population under the age of 30, is making tremendous strides towards developing and transforming its sectors.
More than half of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is now under the age of 25 and with more young individuals joining the work force, the report stated this will be vital to boost economic growth and significantly cut poverty. Although this growth has been beneficial to these areas, poverty remains a problem with poverty levels across the region remaining the same. Part of the reason is many of these countries rely on oil, gas and mineral extraction, which boots economic growth but does not provide too many opportunities for job creation especially to meet the growing workforce. This causes many of the youth to work on small farms and household businesses. According to a new comprehensive regional report, “Youth Employment in Sub-Saharan Africa,” it states that 80 percent of the workforce will continue to work these types of jobs in the future. World Bank Vice President for Africa, Makhtar Diop, said in an interview that it was critical to attract investment into large enterprises in order to create these wage jobs in the ‘mainstream economy’ as part of the solution in curbing Africa’s youth employment challenges.
“For the millions of young people who are just surviving in the hidden ‘informal’ sector, they will need greater access to land, skills training, and credit to thrive. This will be a game-changer for small farmers and entrepreneurs who will prosper as African economies grow, in close cooperation with the private sector.”
Part of this as Diop said, is being able to increase high-quality science and technology education and make it more accessible to youth and to continue these type of courses in higher education in order to better prepare individuals to have the skills to be competitive in the workforce. Already China, India and Brazil are actively working with the World Bank as new development partners to help grow these skills for African Youth. The lure of promised salaries attracts youth to end up at the ranks of groups such as the Somali Islamist group, al-Shabab, due to the lack of opportunities. Some analysts see this growing youth population as more of a risk than an asset because there is a strong case to be made that when you have a young population without clear direction, it can just lead to instability and civil conflict. Nonetheless, with proper support and more stable governments, it can allow these young people to have aspirations without these social stresses that are steering them in the wrong direction. Youth in Africa need to be supported and given an opportunity to follow their passions and truly be the beacon of fresh hope to this continent.
This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.