Promoting inclusive development in Africa: The economics of youth and women empowerment - Keynote presentation by Abdoulaye Mar DIEYE

Jan 20, 2016

Abdoulaye Mar Dieye addresses the UNDP-JICA Symposium. Photo: UNDP Tokyo

United Nations University, Tokyo, Japan

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour to deliver the keynote presentation to this distinguished audience at this Symposium “Towards TICAD VI" on the special theme of "Promoting inclusive development in Africa: The economics of youth and women empowerment”.

Let me at the very outset congratulate Japan for its brilliant recent election at the United Nations Security Council, for a record 11 times! Let me also recognize the role of Japan as a leading champion in supporting international development cooperation, in fostering multilateralism and in promoting African development.

The TICAD process which was initiated in 1993, when Africa was in the midst of what is seen now as the continent’s two lost decades of development. TICAD epitomizes the belief that there is no lost cause in development. If today we are celebrating Africa’s impressive development achievements, it is also time to acknowledge that phenomenal spirit of cooperation.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

Africa is at a turning point!

Despite the remarkable progress in economic growth, during the last 15 years, more is needed to achieve a high level of human development for every African, and in particular for the region’s women and youth. Their contribution is essential to Africa’s economy. Therefore, we must work together to remove the obstacles that impede the realization of their full potential. This includes tackling inequality in Africa, which is the second highest in the world after Latin America.

Youth and women are the most impacted by inequality, but yet represent a significant opportunity to advance the continent’s economic growth. In 2015, there were 226 million youth aged between 15-24 years in Africa (19% of the global youth population). By 2030, that number will increase by 42% and is expected to double by 2055. Africa’s youth today have relatively high levels of unemployment with a large share engaged in vulnerable employment with low productivity. Similarly, the equally high level of unemployment for women on the continent represents a terrible waste of Africa’s potential. On average, 1 in 2 African women are ‘missing’ from the workforce. This has a significant impact on the efforts made to close the gender gaps in education, skills development and labour participation for women and girls in Africa.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Optimising the benefits of the demographic dividend and the youth bulge in Africa requires significant investment in education, training and services to accommodate the needs of the rapid population growth and ensure that youth and women are active actors of the development process. Without targeted interventions and investments in the continent’s dormant resources, the large number of unemployed male and female youth presents a real challenge to reap the benefits of the demographic momentum. The potential risks to the continent’s peace and stability loom larger. Hard-won development gains may be reversed, as witnessed through the Arab Spring and uprisings which spilled over to North Africa and brought about further social unrest, rapid radicalization and the migration crisis.

It is estimated that current gender imbalances in Africa have an annual opportunity cost of 73 billion USD, representing 3 to 4 per cent loss of GDP, per year.

As they are disenfranchised, lack proper education and training opportunities, access to basic social services, and viable employment options, the youth suffer an increasing sense of despondency and are more prone to radicalisation towards violent extremism.

It is estimated that radicalisation costs about 0.5% of GDP in affected countries.

Unleashing the creative energy of young Africans, and women, by nurturing their aspirations, promoting their access to opportunities and resources and giving them a chance to become active citizens, or entrepreneurs will contribute to making Africa the 21st century’s next frontier for inclusive development. Leveraging the potential of these two groups will help fast-track Africa’s development trajectory in a rapidly- changing global economy.

Investing in girls’ and women’s education produces exceptionally high social and economic returns. There are many benefits to having an educated population in general. For women and girls, the windfalls are substantial as educated women tend to invest more in the welfare of their children and households, and thereby contribute to a well-educated and healthier society. They are also more likely to participate in the labour market which allows them to earn decent and reliable incomes, fight for their rights and support their families.

We all know that when women own land and gain equal access to resources, credit, and agricultural extension services, their contribution to production and food security grows.

The evidence is clear that when a woman has more income, she is not only materially better off, but also her children’s health and education benefit.

Addressing inequality among youth and women is critical to avoiding the risk of instability. The question, then, is “What sort of policy options could be included in TICAD VI to facilitate this transformation to maintain and accelerate the region’s positive growth trajectory?

TICAD V has provided an opportunity to collectively take stock of the achievements made over the last 20 years and has made significant contribution in helping drive gender equality and women’s empowerment in Africa.

Building on these achievements, TICAD VI focus areas could include the following imperatives in the implementation of Global Agenda 2030 and Africa Agenda 2063:

  1. Skills development: the capacity gap and growing mismatch on the labour market must be managed by promoting appropriate education and training relevant to market needs. An emphasis should be placed on providing high quality skills and nurturing innovation, technological transfer, research and development leading to employment.
  2. Investment promotion for women and youth: We must actively engage with the private sector in order to align its resource flows with the global agendas. We need bold measures to provide Africa’s youth with the opportunities that they urgently need. In this regard, affirmative action initiatives targeting women and youth and promoting entrepreneurship, such as inclusive businesses that bring low-income people to the value chain should be explored. Areas like information and communication technology (ICT), energy, financial services, agriculture, food security and environment present particular potential.
  3. Women and political participation: Accountable governments must involve women and youth in decision making. An effective response to violent extremism should create space for effective dialogue and engagement with youth and women's organizations in local and national development processes. UNDP in Africa supports the empowerment of youth and women's organizations to engage in effective dialogue, with a focus on deepening participation and the social contract.
  4. Transformative policy and development actions on gender equality. A transformative approach is required to achieve sustainable human development and real gender advancement. UNDP’s upcoming African Human Development Report on Gender Equality will provide reliable and relevant data on the state of gender equality and women’s empowerment. This regional and sub-regional analysis of human development trends, progress and policies will include an assessment of opportunities, successes, challenges and lessons learned in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment in the context of Africa’s human development. Working with the African Union, Regional Organisations and Civil Society Actors, UNDP is keen on identifying and showcasing success stories as well as remaining gaps, emerging issues and policy options for the future.

As we prepare for TICAD VI, let us marshal our collective expertise to usher in rapid and sustained economic and social transformation, as well as equitable and sustainable poverty eradication in Africa.

Thank you for your attention.


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