“If you are trying to create an inclusive sustainable growth trajectory, you need to create and propagate jobs. Specifically, you need to take the largest cohort of Africans, the young people entering our job markets, and find them the quality opportunities for employment that they require,” said James Mwangi, global managing partner of management consultancy firm, Dalberg Global, at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Abuja.
He further stated that over the next 15 to 20 years, Africa is expected to have the largest workforce in the world, and that although some investments have been made in education; African countries aren’t doing enough to create quality jobs at a faster rate.
“Not only that, we are also not helping [the] youth transition to the workforce so we’ve got a growing number of young people with either a high school or tertiary education who are still unemployed because we haven’t figured out how to help them transition into the workplace,” added Mwangi.
According the research group, African Economic Outlook, it is estimated that about 133 million young people in Africa are illiterate while many of them have little or no skills and are therefore excluded from productive social and economic life. Those that have some education often exhibit skills irrelevant to the current demand in the labour market.
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The solution to this challenge, Mwangi believes, is changing the structure of African economies.
“Africa is growing but if you look at the share of our economy going into various sectors, manufacturing to agriculture, that structure is not changing, and what that means is that the vast majority of our people, particularly young people, are stuck in low productivity and low income paying jobs,” he explained.
(WATCH VIDEO: Tackling Africa's unemployment)
In other words, if regular economic activity carries on without changing components of African economies, incomes of the youth will not improve.
For instance, Mwangi added, many opportunities lie within the agriculture sector however Africa continues to export too much raw materials, meaning that not enough value is being captured and wages remain minimal. Also, the youth’s perception of the agricultural industry needs to change so that they can see the huge economic opportunities available in that sector.
“Agriculture is a big business. Being in agriculture doesn’t necessarily mean pulling weeds,” he said.
“We need to actually bring business and science to the farm gate. Think about all the opportunities we need to create value in agriculture, some of them are in growing the crops better but a lot of it is in the transporting of produce, storage of produce and processing it.”
(WATCH VIDEO: Using agriculture to tackle poverty in Africa)
He added that the youth need to be moved into those opportunities where they can add value to the agriculture industry.