With the 2009 African Youth Charter not achieving its desired objectives and the 2013 African Union Agenda 2063 for youths also tolling the same path, Odimegwu Onwumere writes on the urgent need for African leaders to work harder in helping youths achieve their goals, rather than dim their futures
Africa has a variety of youth employment challenges and the youths are discouraged than unemployed, connoisseurs have said. They are at worse discouraged through working poverty, therefore sending uneasiness suggesting that there may be no “New Africa” by 2063 if urgent measures are not taken.
“Working poverty and unemployment rates are strongly negatively correlated in Africa, suggesting that many young people prefer unemployment over working poverty and will choose unemployment in the hope of finding a better job when they can afford it,” the African Economic Outlook, a youth partnership forum, testified.
There are situations that characterise the youths that include poor education, cultism, civil unrest, banditry, and others. On July 2, 2006, the African Union Heads of States and Governments saw the need to apprehend the situations affecting the youths and they held a meeting in Banjul, Gambia.
The outcome of the meeting was the endorsement of the African Youth Charter (AYC), which entered into force on August 8, 2009. The plan for the youths in that charter was titled “The Youth Decade Plan of Action”, which target was to be realised between 2009 and 2018.
But that roadmap created for the effective popularisation, ratification and implementation of the AYC, has yielded little or no result, as the youths on the continent of Africa are still underrepresented in 2016. Failing the youths, Agenda 2063 was formed at the OUA/AU 50th Anniversary Celebration held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in May 2013.
The failure of the leaders in not making the youths achieve their socio-pol-eco goals has culminated to youths on the continent being used by politicians for shoddy deals, kept in ignorance and poverty in a continent ranked to be in the fold of the world’s consumers, where households spend half of their earnings on nonfood things.
“Young people under 25 represent three-fifths of sub-Saharan Africa’s unemployed population, and 72 percent of the youth population lives on less than $2 a day. To help their families, 30 per cent of children between the ages of five and 14 are forced to work, which robs them of the educational opportunities that could break their families’ cycles of intergenerational poverty,” the World Bank reported.
In 2000, it was visible that $5,000 or above were made by many households on the continent as income, but they finished them on consumption without creating effective local contents for local and international demand in order to increase on domestic growth. The sarcasm is that the youths are not fanatically trained to handle the future, but situations in Africa have foisted on them that they must work to help themselves and their families. They engage in ugly dealings to keep body and soul together, while hoping to get better job avenues that are often rare to come by.
“By 2030 there will be roughly 24.6 million people entering the job market in sub-Sahara Africa annually. This growth represents two-thirds of the world’s entire workforce, which means job creation will be a necessity for sub-Saharan economies to benefit,” said the source.
There is an impression that the youths in Africa are termed as those not in needs of job in the labour market and will not contribute to the work force. But an informant informed that the high rates of hindrance to engage the youth boils down to removing them from the labour markets that they go through in Africa.
“25 per cent of African youths are still illiterate and despite a rise in primary school enrolment from 60 per cent in 2000 to 77 per cent in 2011, the issue of low skills levels in the workforce will continue to be a problem,” the African Development Bank frowned.
In 2014, Tighisti Amare who’s the manager of an Africa programmes at Chatham House, said, “Levels of education in Africa are comparatively low creating a considerable skills gap among youth at working age.”
It is a confirmation that the different countries on the continent hardly factor the youths into general and development planning, making the youths not to be united. But these countries have in one way or the other blamed the rise in youth population as the cause of unemployment on the continent.
Amare had rebuffed that notion in a civic presentation, saying that it could be the lackadaisical approach of the continent that has resulted to the negligence of the youths and certainly, not the swelling in population of the youths that has created dearth of employment opportunities.
“The correlation however is not always direct, nor that simple. First, the youth bulge has not created an even unemployment rate throughout the continent. Secondly, it is not the numbers of young people that has created unemployment, but structural issues specific to individual countries,” Amare said.
The concern for the youths on the continent of Africa is how to cope with the nonstop rise in population when there are no job opportunities. While the world fears that the youth population in sub-Sahara Africa alone is the highest in the world, Nigeria is anticipated to outnumber the population of the United States by about 30 million people by 2050.
The World Bank estimated in an account of 2015 that in the sub-Sahara Africa, there have been 186 million to 856 million people from 1950-2010. Going by the analysis of about 11 million people a year, “by 2060, the population of sub-Sahara Africa could be as large as 2.7 billion people.”
There is trepidation that Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania, DRC, Niger, Zambia, and Uganda will contribute millions of people to the world along with China and India. These countries will have the largest populations in the world.
“Compare this demographic shift to Europe’s projection of a declining population – from 738 million people in 2010 to 702 million in 2060,” said the report.
An assessment is that youth population is rife in sub-Saharan Africa, making it the highest in the world. Invariably, this population does not have the training, skills and economic will power to arrest the future.
“The figures instead are largely the result of specific economic and political contexts. Lack of investment in infrastructure and subsidy for sectors with potential for creating jobs for example, have created deep structural issues. In many cases, these issues predate the youth bulge,” Amare affixed.
Among the stakeholders who have raised their voices to carve a niche for the continent to learn and relearn from the past and face the future with resources accruing from Africa and in Africa, the Agenda 2063 is believed to be on the court of the youths to handle. Nevertheless, the youths are not seen by their leaders, who are mainly aged, to have significant economic roles to play in the Africa’s development. This mindset has made Africa not to realise the potency of the Private Sector as the engine of economic growth; and the youths would excel in this sector.
Government at all Levels
It was learnt that governments all over Africa refuse to subsidise some sectors, thereby making such sectors to struggle beyond expectation and most times close shops when they could not pay their workers’ wages. This has affected the youths the most. An example is South Africa where the mining sector, which is said to have an estimate of 400 thousand people in its employ, had series of retrenchment due to the struggle to meet up with the wages of workers.
The same was the fate of the agricultural sector. The negligence of the youths has formed a stance that the next 50 years, what will become of the youths protuberance in the continent is fearsome, because many youths do not have jobs. And how to coordinate activities capable for future challenge in Africa among the youths is yet uncertain. Job and employment opportunities are farfetched for youths in Africa. Many youths are born into poverty and they are yet to change that mindset, because there is hardly any institution geared towards involving entrepreneurial skills from the kindergarten.
Some who have developed the entrepreneurial skills have problems of funding and the right mentorship to excel: Problems that the governments at all levels are not looking into assiduously. The disquiet is what will become of the youths by 2040 when experts have said that the continent’s work force will be projected to 1.1billion from the roughly 500 million it is. While the sub-Sahara Africa is said to be the height of youth population in the world, South Africa has been pointed out as a country with the highest levels of youth unemployment in the region.
Voices have been raised that almost 50 per cent of the youths in South Africa are unemployed. The World Bank once saw Rwanda as one of the lowest youth unemployment rates in the world. The revenues of the countries have not been really managed well upon the economic boom that most countries had experienced. Unlike in the 70s, Africa has GDP rising in telecommunications, banking, retailing, construction, oil, grain, raw materials, minerals, roads, buildings, water systems, similar projects and others.
While the countries have been enjoying the economic boom, individual businesses are biting the dust. In 2008, Africa was said to have garnered $1.6 trillion in GDP, measuring that of Brazil or Russia. In 2000, records have it that Africa increased from $9 billion to $62 billion in 2008 in annual flow of foreign direct investment, roughly as huge as the surge into China. In 2008, oil rose to $145 from $20 it was in 1999. From 2002 to 2007, it is on record that Africa had economic growth in all sectors.
Yet, youths did not find a successful ground even as privatisation policy boomed in African governments in state-owned enterprises. The privatisation policy was hoped to hype openness of trade, reduce corporate taxes, and strengthen regulatory and legal systems, but to no avail as the continent continues to look up to the West for donor. Africa’s per annum private infrastructure investments have skyrocketed since 2000, rating $19 billion from 2006 to 2008.
Between 1999 and 2006 Nigeria privatised more than 116 enterprises; the youths sang Hosanna in the highest that things were going to be good. But till date, the country is grappling with economic difficulties just as Morocco and Egypt that kicked free-trade agreements with major export partners are still gasping for economic breath.
Challenges Facing Youths
Statistics have shown that the youths constitute two-fifths of the working population in Africa if they are employed, “they make up three-fifths of the total unemployed.” Meanwhile, Africa’s labour force is expanding, in contrast to what’s happening in most of the rest of the world. The continent has more than 500 million people of working age. By 2040, their number is anticipated to surpass 1.1 billion – more than in China or India.
“Over the last 20 years, three-quarters of the continent’s increase in GDP per capita came from an expanding workforce, the rest from higher labour productivity. If Africa can provide its young people with the education and skills they need, this large workforce could become a significant source of rising global consumption and production. Education is a major challenge, so educating Africa’s young people has to be one of the highest priorities for public policy across the continent,” reported Acha Leke, Susan Lund, Charles Roxburgh, and Arend van Wamelen of McKinsey and Company.
World Bank held that the existing rate in Nigeria, is 89 dormant people per 100 active workers, and in Uganda it’s 103. South Africa was said to have youth unemployment rate of 48 per cent in 2009, in contrast to 19 per cent for adults. On the part of Egypt, there’s youth unemployment rate of 25 per cent compared to only four per cent for adults in 2007. It has been noted that each African countries has to pursue its own growth since there is no central government on the continent and therefore, develop framework for accepting how the opportunities and challenges affect its youths, by providing business strategies and novel insights for policy makers.
Odimegwu Onwumere, a public analyst wrote from Port Harcourt, Rivers State
The concern for the youths on the continent of Africa is how to cope with the nonstop rise in population when there are no job opportunities. While the world fears that the youth population in sub-Sahara Africa alone is the highest in the world, Nigeria is anticipated to outnumber the population of the United States by about 30 million people by 2050