By Binta Terrier
The objective of this article is to briefly remind us of the alarming youth unemployment problem on the African continent. What have Africans, not just their leaders, done to help address the problem? The high rates of unemployment will continue to have serious impacts on the rights of Africans to earn their living. The consequences of unemployment are already self-evident: population movements into bloated cities; migration to Europe and elsewhere that often leads to the death of young, educated people in foreign seas, and the abuse and incarceration of those who make it to foreign land. Youth unemployment also threatens the national security of all 54 African countries, and by extension that of the Western nations as more young Africans become susceptible to the rhetoric of extremist groups.
In its March 7, 2017 edition, LifeandTime news used the case of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, to underscore the sobering migration reality facing Africans.
- “ 37,000 Nigerians lived in Germany of which 12,000 were asylum seekers--Germany’s Global Head of program”;
- “143,430 non immigrant visas were granted to the US;”
- “36,000 Nigerians (21 per cent of the total 171,299 immigrants) braved the Mediterranean Sea to arrive in Italy– Italian Interior Ministry;”
- “20 Nigerians were killed in South Africa without justification.”
How can these troubling facts be addressed?
Are the African Diaspora and their respective country authorities effectively engaged to help address the youth unemployment problem? Foreign entities alone will not resolve this problem.
In its Monday 8 July 2013 article, The Guardian, published an article by Ms. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the then-Finance Minister of Nigeria, in which she emphasizes the need for job creation in Africa, and stressed that: “Africa should focus on how to secure development and drive economic growth with inclusion…look beyond the macro fundamentals of growth to how to diversify our economies and create jobs. Africa must not become a breeding ground for insurgents and terrorism that undermines development.”
The article provided some sobering statistics from the World Bank: “…People under the age of 25 accounts for about 60% of total unemployment in Sub-Saharan Africa. On Average 72% of the youth population lives below the $2 a day poverty line.” Ms. Ngozi further informs that in her own country Nigeria, one of the most populated countries in Africa, “63% of the population is under 25. Unemployment is at 23.9%, with youth unemployment at 37%. ”
How to solve the unemployment problem in Africa? Ms. Ngozi suggested that it would require:
- Sustained economic growth by economic diversification, less reliance on exports of primary commodity (mainly agricultures) and natural resources (oil, diamond, bauxite, gold etc.) thus, develop manufacturing and create added value.
- Develop human capital.
- Build safety nets. Tax reforms for efficient income redistribution.
- Control population growth. Educate women and girls on the issue.
- The Asian Tigers and specifically Korea was cited as an example Africans to follow and invest in their youth.
Furthermore that, “Africa’s youth bulge, if properly harnessed, could also power economic activity over the next 30-40 years, as in Korea.” In sum Africa needs “Job-creation programs.”
Recent report by Trading Economics, indicated that in quarter 2 of 2016, youthful unemployment in Nigeria was 24% (from 37% in 2013), and 47% for South Africa.
Now, what prevents Africans from creating these jobs-creating programs?
Why did Koreans succeed where Africans continue to fail?
The facts remain that Africa lacks:
- Credible and strong institutions
- Ability to enforce rules of law
- Respect for individualand property rights
- A healthy dose of nationalism —true love for one’s country and its people while being inclusive and open minded in a global economy.
- Political stability and respect for the constitutions
These are the pillars for Africa to fully and efficiently employ its resources and build its capacity. Until we integrate these in our psyche and accept that we need each other, will sustained economic development prevail and provide a brighter future for the entire continent.
How can the already established African Diaspora start taking some serious responsibility towards their nations and healthy unemployed youth? Irrespective of the great challenges, let’s get on the continent and help create start-ups in any respectful economic activity that could employ at least 5 persons. These jobs could be linked to our adopted countries and generate a win-win situation for all involved.
There are far too many competent but unemployed youth who are simply waiting for an opportunity. Please, let’s not waste any more precious time, especially now that many governments are becoming receptive to Diaspora investment.
Sources: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2013/jul/08/jobs-young-people-africa-Nigeria; http://www.tradingeconomics.com/nigeria/youth-unemployment-rate ; http://www.lifeandtimesnews.com/nigerian-diaspora-facts/