The 2012 edition of the African Economic Outlook (AEO) prepared on the special theme “Promoting Youth Employment” was launched in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on September 13 in the presence of members of the diplomatic community, government officials, and representatives of international organizations, the private sector and civil society.
Speaking at the ceremony, Mr. Lamin Barrow, Resident Representative of the African Development Bank in Ethiopia, described the new report as a clarion call for Africa to “reset the policy agenda towards promoting inclusive, employment-creating and sustainable growth strategies aimed particularly at addressing the special needs of youth.” He said that creating productive jobs for young people will continue to pose a major policy challenge, especially as the number of youths in Africa is set to double from the current 200 million to about 400 million by 2045.
Around 60 per cent of the continent’s unemployed are between the ages of 15 and 24. “This is indeed an unacceptable reality on a continent with such a pool of youth, talent and creativity,” he said. However, citing the report, Mr. Barrow observed with a measure of satisfaction that “Africa’s youth population is not only growing rapidly, it is also getting better educated.”
“Based on current trends, about 59 per cent of 20- to 24-year-olds will have had secondary education in 2030, compared to 42 per cent today. This will translate into 137 million people in this group with secondary education and 12 million with tertiary education in 2030,” he explained. Experts predict that if this trend continues the continent’s labour force will reach 1 billion by 2040, making it the largest in the world.
Speaking on behalf of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, Prof. Emmanuel Nnadozie, Director of the Economic Development and NEPAD Division, said the theme of the 2012 report is timely because it highlights the joint efforts of the four institutions – AfDB, UNECA, United Nations Development Programme and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development – to “help African countries identify opportunities and address challenges in order to maximize benefits from the emerging demographic dividend on the continent.”
He stressed the fact that the 2012 report advocates for policies that focus on creating the right skills necessary for youths to compete in the job market and support entrepreneurship, if this massive human capital is to be turned into an economic opportunity. The report states that Africa could actually take advantage of its expanding youth population to sustain and accelerate the economic and social development of the continent.
Nevertheless, the report warns that high unemployment among youth poses a serious challenge for the economies of African countries, despite their remarkable recovery from the 2011 global economic and financial crisis. It urges African countries to make youth employment a priority in order to stem the expanding population of unemployed youth.
The Bank’s Resident Representative again praised the strong collaboration between the four partner institutions, noting that it is thanks to this collaboration that they could produce this flagship report, which is a “good source of valuable analysis and perspectives on fostering inclusive growth and promoting youth employment.” He said he was delighted to note that, despite all the odds, Africa’s rate of growth has outperformed the global average over the last decade. However, “high growth is not sufficient to guarantee productive employment for all,” he stressed.
UNDP Country Director for Ethiopia Ms. Alessandra Tisot called the report “a reminder to African governments and policy-makers to focus on removing obstacles to the many informal groups and support them to grow and create decent jobs.” She identified challenges, which need to be addressed and said they relate to “strengthening the link with different industries in the job market and providing practical skills, access to credit, microfinance, easy access to information and technology to enhance employability.”
The African Economic Outlook report is published annually through joint efforts by the African Development Bank, UNECA, UNDP and the OECD. The coverage of the African Economic Outlook has increased from 22 countries in 2002 to 53 countries in 2012, covering all African countries with the exception of Somalia.