‘Excuse me… I am looking for a job’
Africa’s development is extremely crippled by the high rate of unemployment, especially among the youth.
It is now having the most youthful population in the world with the youth numbering between 60 percent and 70 percent of the continents citizens.
This menace poses great threats to the strength and growth of Africa.
Paul Frimpong, an economic policy analyst, says, “Though unemployment is seen manifested all over the world, the case of Africa is very dilapidating to say the least.
“Unemployment in Africa is manifested in seasonal layoffs (eg in agricultural jobs), technological changes in industry (particularly by increased automation), racial discrimination, lack of adequate skills by the worker, or fluctuations in the economy.”
To simply explain unemployment, we can say that it is simply the state of not having a job and yet being qualified and actively looking for one.
Naturally, the most affected demographic groups are school leavers and college/university graduates. Semi-skilled individuals, school drop-outs, the physically challenged and women and girls in general also find it harder than other people to get jobs.
In essence, there are less jobs on the continent than are needed to meet demand, which grows every year.
One argument has been that unemployment in Africa is largely caused by a “structurally defective” education system.
The education systems in most – if not all – African countries do not correspond directly to the economic realities prevailing outside the schools system.
Frimpong says, “The education system in African countries has failed to respond to the existing inter-generation gap. It simply imparts general and literary education devoid of any practical content. Africa’s educational policy merely produces individual whose services do not reflect the economic trends on the job market.”
Furthermore, unemployment in countries within and across Africa among the youth is again caused by the lack of vocational guidance and training facilities at all levels of the schools system.
The need of the hour is that there must be sufficient number of technical training institutions and other industry-oriented courses from the lowest levels of the schooling system. This allows people to explore the many options that are open to them apart from wearing a jacket-and-tie and doing an eight-to-five job in an urban area.
But Africa’s industrial and job creation potential will remain in limbo as long as governments do not have their priorities right, public and private officials are corrupt, and there is general negligence and apathy on the continent.
If Africa does not start harnessing the energies of its qualified people, it shall continue to be underdeveloped.
Frimpong says: “People with adequate skills and competence are rather left unutilised due to the problem of unemployment. Thus, individuals’ talents and skills are untapped and left unutilised. This indeed is a great loss to the African continent as such skills could have been utilised to foster sustainable growth on the continent.”
He goes on to say, “Most Africans due to poverty arising out of unemployment cannot satisfy the basic necessity of life. As a result, most African’s live in the streets across capital cities because of their inability to afford a descent accommodation.”
Accordingly, it is the responsibility of African governments to foster industrialisation and its accompanying employment creation.
Zambian President Michael Sata puts it thus: “There is need to create employment for the masses of young people in Africa so that they can be engaged and be occupied. Africa’s greatest resource is its young people. Youth have passion, determination, ambition and drive.”
Improving the lot of Africa’s millions of unemployed youth requires a conscious effort and commitment – in terms of energy and resources – for any improvement to be registered.
This means a certain percentage of national budgets or GDP should be set aside annually to develop education and ensure that is in sync with our developmental aspirations.
“Youths should be trained in the schools to acquire transferable skills highly meeting the current global economic trends. The schools curricula should be drafted around producing skilled individuals in the technical and vocational field.
‘There should be the provision of more training and education to the unemployed. This could help improve computer skills and communication,” asserts Frimpong.
There must also be conscious and adequate efforts by governments in Africa to support our industrial requirements.
As such, we should ask: what are African governments doing to ensure industries are established and grow? How much support do they lend to local entrepreneurs – whether from the SMEs sector or those seeking to build massive conglomerates – to help them contribute to national development and employment creation?
Efforts must be intensified to increase productivity and income through the informal sector, and governments should increase their efforts to facilitate greater access of operators in the informal sector to the means of production such as land and capital.
Kelvin Esiasa, President of the Zambia Society for Public Administration and Society for Family Businesses, believes that African countries must cluster their job markets so that job seekers can know where to start looking.
He says, “Clustering of the job market would help the continent to know its needs and tailor its training resources to these job areas.”
And then there is the area of agriculture.
Africa holds most of the world’s arable land and yet people are dying of hunger on the continent. Why are governments not opening up this virgin land and putting young people to work on it? This will both create jobs and improve food security.