Young Africans are ill-prepared to enter the job market as education worsens

LONDON, Oct 14 (Reuters) – The quality of education and training provided by African countries has worsened since 2014, leaving many of the continent’s growing population of young people ill-prepared to enter the job market, an influential report said on Tuesday.

The Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG), the most comprehensive survey of its kind on the continent, found that on average enrolment and access to education was particularly low in the tertiary sector.

“This has resulted in the burgeoning youth population being faced with increasing struggles when entering the job market,” researchers at the Mo Ibrahim Foundation wrote in an interim update ahead of the full biennial report due to be published next year.

“The current pace of progress is going to fall behind demographic needs as the majority age group in Africa now is under-15.”

The report rates 54 African nations against criteria such as security, human rights, economic stability, just laws, free elections, corruption, infrastructure, poverty, health and education.

Demographic developments are a hot topic in Africa, which, according to United Nations data, is expected to account for more than half of the world’s population growth between 2015 and 2050. The continent’s population is projected to double by 2050, and could double again by 2100, the U.N. has said.

The IIAG interim report said that while African governments have made some progress in improving infrastructure since 2014, on average they were lagging well behind their ambitions to revamp their economies.

“African governments have on average not managed to translate GDP growth into economic opportunities for citizens,” it said. “Progress since 2014 runs behind the rapidly growing working age population.”

The report noted more progress in health and nutrition, saying countries were making strong strides in combating communicable diseases and child and maternal mortality rates.

However, providing affordable quality healthcare for all citizens was still far off and the rising spread of undernourishment was a major area of concern, it added.

Researchers also criticised the widespread lack of key data across the continent, which impedes the ability of policymakers to monitor progress and adapt accordingly, saying vital population statistics had deteriorated significantly in recent years.

The report said just eight African countries had a birth registration system that covered 90% or more of the population over the last decade, and only three countries had a corresponding death registration system.

“Africa’s ‘data gap’ needs to be urgently addressed,” the report said. “This will create an environment conducive to sustainable and equitable development, ensuring no one is left behind.”

(Reporting by Karin Strohecker in London; editing by Jane Wardell)

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