Issues Facing Young People in Africa: Unemployment

In this series of articles, members of the executive of Africa Liberal Youth explain what they believe to be the most pressing political and social issues facing young people in Africa.

From Casablanca to Cape Town, Dakar to Nairobi, all African students enter university thinking one thing: obtaining a degree will change their lives for the better. Unfortunately, the reality is different. Students in African universities face many challenges and barriers to enter the tight job market.  Many factors contribute to this situation: socio-economic circumstances, a lack of funding, limited emancipation, a lack of real infrastructure and social pressures are all negative factors. This can impact on the experiences of students at university, and on the quality of skills gained during their time on campus.

On the other hand, the private sector in Africa is always complaining about the lack of skills of job seekers, especially among new graduates. This shows the deep disconnection of university teachings from market needs and economic orientations. One of the urgently needed but challenging reforms in Africa remains in transforming our educational institutions to meet this millennium’s needs and aspirations. We must change the way our young people get taught. The system should be based on access to knowledge and not on a rode old-fashioned educational model. We must use digital tools to enable our children to learn more efficiently.

At a political level, facing the unemployment crisis remains a high priority for all African governments, even being at the top of their list for some. Unemployment in Africa is at its highest peak, and the situation will only worsen in the next few years. Sadly, only few governments are showing real leadership on the matter, and time has come to find real solutions with instant direct impact. The economies of today will be unable to absorb the hundreds of thousands of new graduates of tomorrow. Africa is a large continent with immense untapped natural resources and a massive working population.

There is a great potential for intra-African trade to reduce unemployment. Potential trade between African countries is estimated at over a trillion dollars. Inter African trade is one of the missing key ingredients to create millions of African jobs over the next decade, but in order to achieve that potential, many challenges will have to be met. African countries need to act collectively to build the required infrastructure and institutions that will make African trade feasible for locals. Governments must settle all conflicts by finding political solutions based on compromise, because no legal trade flourishes in conflict zones.

One way to get a better understanding of what it takes to achieve the potential of inter African trade is to look at Africa as integrated open system that interacts on different levels to transform resources into wealth. The tasks that governments in Africa are asked to do can place pressure on them with varying political implications. The current governance crisis, corruption, and lack of political vision will affect the freedom of young people to develop the economy, because bad governance limits opportunities, and potential performance and may well kill talent. At that level of thinking, African policy makers should encourage a culture of entrepreneurship. In order to make that happen, stakeholders must create strategic trade hubs in the different corners of the continent, incubators and networks to bring the best diaspora talents together with local African youth entrepreneurs.

In Africa, governments and other stakeholders must quickly establish innovative funding mechanisms to promote entrepreneurship. Such funding must be conditional on merit, education, research, and innovation. It is important to engage young people at an early stage, by designing specific programs aimed to set the stage at all educational levels to embrace entrepreneurship.

To win the battle of entrepreneurship, African governments must sponsor start-up activities and support the mobility of young African entrepreneurs. This can happen by, promoting and easing the relocation of the entrepreneurs on the continent. It is important to standardise the visa system for entrepreneurs, so we don’t limit the African economic opportunity to national or regional borders. The different stakeholders should provide some provision, such as backing up an advanced immigration scheme for entrepreneurs on the continent. It is the job of the different public departments to link entrepreneurs to relevant funding institutions and business operators. Furthermore, African governments need to simplify, rationalize and provide the needed support and direction to young Africans so they can grow and thrive and achieve the best results of the economic opportunity. Politicians don’t create jobs but entrepreneurs do.

Jawad is from in Settat, North Africa, Kingdom of Morocco and has a decade of experience in Asia Pacific. He is African and proud, and sees himself as a strong liberal, who believes in equal opportunity, individual freedoms, the acceptance of others, multiculturalism and the need for south-south cooperation. Jawad believes that Africa needs strong economies with good governance systems that will guarantee fairness and opportunity for all Africans.

Jawad is also cautious that there is a soft populist revolution sweeping around the world and this is becoming a real threat. It is time for liberals to stand up because only liberals can work to increase Africa’s prosperity to promote a liberal world.

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