Conference “Boosting youth employment in Africa”
The Knowledge Platform on Inclusive Development Policies (INCLUDE) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized a conference on “Boosting youth employment in Africa: what works and why?” on May 30, 2017. The Food & Business Knowledge Platform (F&BKP) participated in the conference because of its work on similar topics from a food security perspective, including the role of youth in agriculture and on social entrepreneurship.
INCLUDE prepared a synthesis report that reviews the latest knowledge on youth employment in Africa and the role of agriculture in combating youth unemployment. Most African youth (aged 15–24 years) are underemployment. They do work, but part-time and in low-skilled jobs in the informal sector. The report highlights that between 2010 and 2020, most new jobs are projected to be created in informal sectors like agriculture and household enterprises. Also, 68% of income in rural areas is created by agriculture, underlining the importance of the sector. It is thus important to enhance productivity in these two currently low-productive sectors in the short term. In terms of making agriculture more productive, it recommends to invest in irrigation technology to ensure all-year round farming, as well as in training of farmers on the use of improved seeds and fertilizer. Also farm diversification will enhance agricultural productivity as it reduces seasonal underemployment in agriculture. Possible priority sectors that could be targeted include staples, cash crops, horticultural products and livestock. But which sectors to prioritise depends on the local conditions.
The conclusion of the synthesis report is that a policy shift is needed to create employment for youth in the short term. Tackling un- and underemployment among African youth requires a local focus on multiple interventions that increase productivity in potential growth sectors, as well as tailor-made interventions that equip youth to exploit these opportunities. This was also the key message of the conference.
Presentations were held bythe Minister of Foreign Trade and Aid, the MasterCard Foundation, the African Development Bank, US Agency for International Development, the International Labour Organization and the African Union Commission amongst others. There was consensus that efforts should be made on the supply side of employment, the demand side and linkages between them. In other words, better aligning skills training to the demands of the job market, creating more and better job opportunities for youth and making better connections between youth and the market. During the breakout sessions more in-depth country contexts were discussed, including more recent concerns of the destabilizing effects of high youth unemployment.