Africa faces underemployment


The theme of this year’s World Economic Forum on Africa that kicked off today is, Forging inclusive growth, Creating jobs. Therefore, with the continent’s huge problem with unemployment this would be a key focus for discussions.

“The rate of unemployment in Africa generally is huge but what is worse is the rate of underemployment and the particular aspect of it is that most of the unemployed are very young people,” Aeneas Chuma, regional director of the International Labour Organisation told CNBC Africa.  

According to the Nigeria’s bureau of statistics, the rate of unemployment in the country stood at about 29.5 per cent in 2013 which resulted in some analysts suggesting a state of emergency.


On the other hand, Statistics South Africa said in a recent report that the unemployment rate in the country rose from 24.1 per cent to 25.2 per cent in the previous three months.

(READ MORE: S.Africa’s unemployment rate accelerates to 25.2%)

“The youth are relatively well educated than the previous generation and they face unemployment at a time when the African economy has grown significantly in the last decade. I don’t know about a state of emergency but I think it’s a very appropriate way of categorising the type of problem that African countries have,” he explained.

(READ MORE: Creation of quality jobs is key for African youth unemployment)

Despite significant growth on the continent, unemployment is an issue many governments are still tackling. Nonetheless, Chuma believes that there attention to the matter is good and that what is lacking now is a common approach and response to the problem going forward.

“The big debate is around what type of growth are we seeking here. We need to invest in the type of growth that generates jobs and these jobs have to be decent jobs that pay wages and reduce poverty but we need to make special investments around the youth,” he said.

Chuma, hopes that there will be a general recognition of the magnitude of the problem at the forum and a recognition that macro-economic growth is important as African economies have grown over the past 10 years.

“The African population is very young and that can be approached as a tremendous resource for a growing continent but it can also threaten social stability if we’ve got these large armies of young Africans, well educated, able to work and they are not given opportunities,” he added.