How to deal with the employment crisis in Africa-a global issue

Youth at the Grand Medine City Hall in Dakar, Senegal. Senegal has a large youth population, half of whom are under 18 years of age. By 2025, 376,000 young people are expected to enter the job market that provides only 30,000 jobs. According to data from the Wilson Center, by 2030, this number will rise to 411,000. Credit: Samuel Paul Banga/IPS
  • View Author: John Ivanov (Accra, Ghana)
  • International news agency

Africa is facing a serious employment crisis.However, if no measures are taken to find a solution, the situation may get worse in the near future because World Bank Forecasts for 2017 show that by 2035, the working-age population in Africa will increase by 450 million.

At the same time, it is expected that only 100 million jobs will be created in the same period.That was before the Covid-19 pandemic: Africa was severely affected and its economy experienced contraction 2% increase in 2020. UNECA estimates that almost 30 million Africans Has been pushed below the extreme poverty line.

In the years before the pandemic, especially between 2016 and 2020, Africa experienced Steady economic growthHowever, this growth is mainly driven by high commodity prices and has not translated into sustainable employment creation. This is especially worrying when looking at the demographic data of Africa.

By 2050, African youth (15-35 years old) are expected to double to reach 830 million people The total population of the mainland will reach approximately 2.5 billion peopleToday, Africa is the youngest continent in the world-by 2020, its average age is 19,7 yearsIn the next few decades, Africa will remain the youngest continent in the world.

A step-by-step approach to employment

Millions of young Africans will not be able to find jobs, or have enough resources to support their families or realize their full potential. This is a modern tragedy. Although there is a very active and informed international debate on job creation, it does not seem to have produced a viable solution that can lead to major changes in the employment situation.

In many cases, the government seems to only make irresponsible remarks about the democratic process and the system.

The employment crisis in Africa is very complicated, and it is necessary to fundamentally think about the direction of the structural transformation of the African continent. Does the progressive industrialization approach applicable to East Asia also apply in Africa?

To what extent is free trade part of the problem rather than part of the job crisis solution? How can there be real changes if the government is undemocratic, corrupt, and obstructs reforms?

It is long overdue to adopt a gradual approach to respond to the employment crisis in Africa. This approach can inspire and inform African leaders and European policymakers. This gradual approach is based on two sets of interdependent principles-politics and economics. Here are some ideas.

First, the political aspect means the establishment of solid democratic institutions to organize and supervise structural transformation and economic reforms. In many cases, the government seems to only make irresponsible remarks about the democratic process and the system.

If there is no accountability system enforced by a democratic system, the will of the people will not be reflected in the development model. Without the corrective function of democracy, development will lead to more inequality, which will only benefit a few privileged classes.

Political reform also needs to include a bold stand against corruption. Africans are tired of governments that are primarily concerned with remaining in power to obtain national resources.

It is necessary to deal with state captives by transferring power from the executive branch to a politically independent and efficient judicial branch capable of implementing accountability and democratic principles.

Fundamentally speaking, countries controlled by democratic institutions and active civil society have a responsibility to ensure that economic growth is truly translated into job creation.

A wide range of social alliances, including democratic unions, non-governmental organizations, activists, environmental groups, and progressive political leaders, must take the lead here and articulate their demands for more accountability from democracy. In particular, women must play a key role in this process because they are particularly affected by the current employment situation.

These groups need to work together to exert greater pressure on the government to allow civil society, academia, labor representatives, and the private sector to actively participate in the formulation of strategies for job creation and monitoring the implementation of employment plans. This is not only an inconvenient task, but also an important attempt to improve the quality of political decision-making and results.

It is necessary to pursue and demand economic principles with the same energy as political principles. Fundamentally speaking, countries controlled by democratic institutions and active civil society have a responsibility to ensure that economic growth is truly translated into job creation.

To this end, the revenue mobilization system must be improved. First, the focus can be on the commodity sector-the main source of income for many African countries. Many people export oil, gold, metals, and cocoa, but it is difficult to negotiate an agreement that guarantees a fair share of these exports.

More funds can be drawn from multinational companies operating in Africa. In addition, some parts of Africa’s huge informal economy left in the informal sector due to tax evasion-such as some professionals in the urban economy-may be another source of income. The loopholes in the tax system must also be actively plugged.

African countries must invest heavily in public products such as education, healthcare, energy, and digitalization. Infrastructure is the key to economic transformation.

For example, the construction sector may be one of the fields that can create a lot of job opportunities. In the public bidding process for large infrastructure projects funded by African countries or international financial institutions, African companies should receive preferential treatment.

The entire African continent requires substantial national investment in well-designed public works projects. These are all strategies for poverty reduction and job creation. It is necessary to continuously evaluate public works plans and reasonable exit strategies to control costs.

In addition, states must introduce plans to provide bank accounts to all citizens-the transfer of basic income may be an element of direct support.

A decades-long project

It is an illusion to think that all employment challenges can only be solved by the state. The main source of employment will still be the private sector, and most of the jobs will be created in urban areas, mainly in the service industry.

The so-calledAn industry without chimneys‘In other words, tourism, agricultural enterprises, remote office services, and creative industries have some potential for job creation. However, in order to create long-term sustainable employment and decent work, it is necessary to transfer a large amount of knowledge and technology from developed countries to African countries.

Last but not least, trade between African countries—accelerated through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) that started operations on January 1, 2021—may lead to economic growth and employment impacts. At the same time, free trade may adversely affect Africa’s immature industries.

This is why some industries should be nurtured and protected from competition. In addition, areas that will be potentially negatively affected by AfCFTA, Need to compensate them for their losses.

Solving the employment crisis in Africa is a process that takes years or even decades. Small steps are more realistic than jumping fantasy. However, political dialogue tends to be too short-sighted to emphasize how favorable economic factors stimulate job creation.

But the key is to understand that solid political and economic principles overseen by the people primarily affected by the transition must go hand in hand—because both determine the gradual way in which Africa’s economic growth and job creation are done.

John Ivanov He is the resident director of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung office in Ghana and the coordinator of the Sub-Saharan Africa Economic Policy Competence Center (EPCC) operating in Ghana. Previously, he served as Deputy Resident Director of FES India and Office Director of FES Headquarters in Berlin. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the Free University of Berlin and a master’s degree in international political theory from the University of Edinburgh.

Source: International Politics and Society (IPS)-Journal Published by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung International Political Analysis Group, Hiroshimastrasse 28, D-10785 Berlin


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