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Youth unemployment in Africa – enhancing appropriate skills and job creation!

I was invited by GYIN (Global Youth Innovation Network) to attend - on behalf of YPARD - the presentation of the African Economic Outlook 2012 focusing on Youth Employment, at IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development), on Friday 8 June 2012.

The presentation included a short macro-economic overview and a discussion on youth employment enhancement.

This was an excellent opportunity for YPARD to get updated information on the youth employment situation in Africa, and review our objectives and activities on this. It furthermore gave the chance to talk more about how we  support the youth in the agricultural sector and it generated some  insights on  ways to work with IFAD, GYIN and other key stakeholders working on empowering the youth

Let me emphasize here the key aspects discussed, related to youth, agriculture and employment.

What can be done to promote youth employment?

A number of hypotheses were made to explore reasons of bad labour market situation.  It may be that:
-    The Labour market rules are too strict?
-    There is not enough economic activity?
-    There is not good repartition of opportunities?

Answer from the research:

  1. There are not enough jobs. Job creation needs to be boosted (89% of the response through the research (survey in 37 countries))
  2. There are skill mismatches between what is learned through education systems and skills required in the working place. (47% )
  3. There is a need of Labour market information (46%)
  4. There is an issue related to attitudes employers and youth (40%)
  5. Labour market regulations are present a challenge (16%)

Jobs creation

The private sector needs to be stronger, with the support of appropriate policies. Job creation has to  be generated through micro-enterprises, and in rural areas, where 68% of the youth is.

Recommendations for Job Creation are:

  • Improve access to finance by investing in good screening and targeting, and combine funding with training and mentoring
  • Provide business with better services
  • Change government attitude towards small business and household enterprises
  • Provide incentives to hire and train young people, while avoiding displacement
  • Offer employment friendly social protection

Skill mismatches

The report says that many young Africans don’t have the skills expected by employers. For 54% of the job seekers, it is not about not having skills at all – many job seekers do have strong competencies- , it is about having qualifications that match the request from the job market. However, 41% of the job seekers show too little skills. Skills mismatch is particularly a problem in middle income countries.

There is a need for longer education, more practical skills, university program that respond to the continent’s needs, better involvement of the different stakeholders to empower technical skills. 

Technological and vocational trainings still play a marginal role.

Education systems could improve through:

  • Stronger links between educational systems and the working environment (employment needs)
  • Focusing on relevant skills
  • Certifying skills acquired in informal training or through practice


The presentation echoed our strategic objectives and recent activities at YPARD. During the discussions, I particularly stressed these following, specifically related to our actions in the field of agriculture.

Study on skills needed by Today’s youth in ARD

To respond to the mismatch between the skills acquired at school and skills required by employees, we conducted a study in 2011 in order to identify the skills needed by Today’s youth in agriculture. You can read "Working towards a new generation of Young Professionals in ARD" report for more information. The particularity of this study is to present young professionals’ views on skills needed by new generations in agriculture.

The results of the report will be brought to discussions and debates on change in formal higher agricultural education, by notably sensitizing universities on the findings around which curricula might need to be adapted.

Youth also need to gain more practical skills and experience through training and internship. YPARD has developed information services to keep members aware of existing opportunities.

Need of formalizing employment

One of the solutions to improve the professional situation for the youth is to formalize job positions.

YPARD operates on global, regional, national and local levels.

On a national and local level, YPARD Country representatives and key local leaders build up working groups and are encouraged to set key priorities regarding youth issues,  which they can raise with government ministries.

On a global level , YPARD supports young delegates to represent YPARD Community members at key ARD events, and bring youth issues to the table. By supporting participation of young delegates to key events we make sure that needs of the youth are addressed and heard by decision-makers for further actions.

Private Sector
YPARD works for better integration of youth in private sector and making enterprises “YP-friendly”. YPARD is planning to elaborate a guideline towards this purpose, stating why it is important to support the youth and how enterprises can do this, and benefit from it.

Leadership, entrepreneurship and agriculture

We were particularly glad to link up with GYIN with whom there are many opportunities for partnership. While YPARD community can gain a lot from GYIN young leaders and entrepreneurs, GYIN community could be inspired by YPARD Agricultural related young experts and potentially work together for agricultural development. We would further more have much to gain in joining our voices to influence youth support by public and private sectors.

Representatives from OECD and the African Development Bank expressed their interest in supporting Young people.  They stressed the importance to learn from practices and the opportunity for mutual learning with youth

Read also: The African Economic Outlook 2012 focusing on Youth Employment - YPARD Brief , summary of the AEO presentation.

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