The mismatch of skills in the informal and rural sector to the needs of the labour market in Africa has been identified as one of the reasons for serious youth unemployment and the continent’s underdevelopment. According to an African Economic Outlook (AEO) study, the most difficult areas for recruiters to have employees are those areas which demand technical qualifications, such as the oil and gas sector, the mining sector, the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, the manufacturing industry, the agri-business sector and the logistics sector. Most of Africa’s tertiary educational establishments focus on public sector employment rather than on the private sector labour demands. How can the continent overturn this impediment especially as there is much talk of Africa’s renaissance?
Graduates in the fields on humanities and social sciences find it difficult to get employed than those who specialize in the information technology, agriculture and the engineering fields. A 2013 Mo Ibrahim study shows that the social sciences and the humanities have higher enrolment rates and graduates. Those in the engineering, manufacturing, construction and agricultural sectors tail the list in terms of higher educational enrolment and graduation. Just 2 per cent of youth in Africa are studying agriculture and the continent is in dire need of specialists in these fields to move the continent forward especially as agriculture contributes on average 25 per cent of Africa’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Sub Saharan Africa has the lowest share of engineering graduates in the world. Natural resource sectors such as the mining, oil and gas industries employ less than 1 per cent of Africa’s workforce. Despite these disturbing statistics the continent suffers from serious brain drain because employment conditions in these sectors remain vulnerable.
An African Development Bank (ADB) study purports that in Sub Saharan Africa; non wage employment represents more than 80 per cent of total employment for women and more than 60 per cent for men. 9 to 10 rural and urban workers have informal jobs in Africa most of whom are women and youth. The largest employees in Africa are the retail, agriculture and hospitality industries which remain insecure. Almost 90 per cent of jobs furnished by the agricultural sector for instance are vulnerable.
There is therefore a need for joint efforts to make technical and vocational skills more appealing to African youth and women. African states in collaboration with universities and think tanks need to encourage enrolment especially at the university level for specializations like the engineering, manufacturing, construction, natural resource and agriculture sectors. Central governments in collaboration with regional and local governments need to make jobs for instance in the agricultural sector more secured. If these jobs continue to be vulnerable, African youth and women will not be interested in enrolling in areas like agriculture thus a lacuna in the private sector labour demands. As existing public and private employment capacity is too small, investing in the informal and rural sector can be seen as an opportunity if the challenges of wages and productivity alongside education and training are overcome as well. It is thus time for African states to rethink matching of skills in the informal and rural sector to meet the needs of the labour market in Africa.