Africa must work as one to turn the continent’s ‘youth bulge’ into opportunities, delegates at the closing of the 2019 African Economic Conference said on Wednesday.
The three-day conference in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, discussed initiatives for boosting entrepreneurship, improving the business ecosystem, access to capital and better infrastructure – all to create decent jobs for the continent’s unemployed and under-employed youth.
Hanan Morsy, Director of Macroeconomic Forecasting and Research at the African Development Bank, underscored the importance of gainful and decent employment for the bulge of African youths seeking jobs or keen to set up their own businesses.
“At the African Development Bank, we recognize that addressing the problem is not an easy task that a single organization or country could accomplish alone. It needs a concerted effort,” Morsy said.
“It needs governments to work together and share experiences; international organizations to join hands, the private sector to work with policymakers, the youth to voice their concerns, and researchers to share policy-relevant evidence that will inform policies.”
The 2019 conference, hosted by the African Development Bank in partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), brought together government ministers, researchers, young entrepreneurs and civil society to explore ways to boost jobs and skills for Africa’s youth.
Angela Lusigi, Strategic Advisor at the UNDP urged decision-makers to prepare for a changing demography and the impacts of a changing climate to create a brighter future for the continent.
“We have to anticipate and leverage the shift that we know are going to happen in terms of our demography, our climate and our people’s movements and together we can reimagine a different future of Africa,” Lusigi said.
Reform of the education system is crucial, she said. “Let’s think deeper. We want to know what works in the African context. All our education systems have to look at creating future oriented skills because the solutions we have today will not work tomorrow.”
Adam Elhiraika, Director, Macroeconomics and Governance Division at the ECA, urged young people to work across borders and contribute to integration of the continent at regional and national levels. “Creating one Africa is the most important step we can take to create better opportunities for all Africans,” he said.
“The opportunities we had here is just the beginning for all of you to influence policy makers and influence ideas and actions by youths to help create jobs for Africans. It is a unique opportunity.”
One of the highlights of this year’s conference was a session for young African entrepreneurs to share their work and ideas to shape the future of the continent.
Fahad Awadh, co-founder of YYTZ Agro-Processing, a Tanzania-based cashew production business, said: “By improving the business environment, we will be able to drive growth and value creation, leading to job creation. It is the youth that will create the jobs that are needed on the continent.”
Sobel Aziz Ngom, another young entrepreneur and founder of Social Change Factory in Senegal, commented: "There is no way we can achieve important national results in terms of education and work for young people, if all keys actors do not collaborate and align their investments, programs and practices."