“In order to create jobs we need to open up the manufacturing sector. So far, Africa has been mainly about oil and gas [and] minerals – it doesn’t create a lot of jobs so you have to move on to the next stage,” said Jean-Paul Thill, chief executive of KPMG's Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region.
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“If we want those young Africans to become integrated in the African success story, if we want them to become integrated in the middle class and start consuming goods and services, we have to create jobs for them. The best way of doing that is creating manufacturing jobs.”
Unemployment remains a hindrance to growth and prosperity in Africa, and will be greatly focused on at this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) for Africa, which takes place in Abuja, Nigeria from 7 – 9 May.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm around the Africa story about Africa rising, the growth rates, a billion people today which will be two and a half billion by 2050, a rising middle class, a young population and [the] dynamism that goes along with that,” Thill said.
“That being said, we’ve seen similar situations elsewhere. In India, for example, politicians for several years were emphasising the fact that a young population provides a demographic dividend and that can potentially be true because you have all this positive energy. In order for it to be a demographic dividend, you have to create jobs on a massive scale.”
Thill added that while the continent’s manufacturing sector may be in need of potentially ‘costly’ development, the effect it will have on job creation in the long term will be worth it.
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“In order to start up the manufacturing industry, you need several key preconditions. First of all, you need good infrastructure – you need roads, you need electricity supply, you need a legal political-social framework that creates stability, you need to have good courts so that in the event of a dispute, you can resolve it in the right way,” he indicated.
“There’s a lot about governance, about African governments helping to create stable framework. You also need education – in order to have an effective and efficient manufacturing sector, you need to have schools [and] you need to build skills. It is a long-term challenge but the prize is worth it.”