Photo credit: UN/Marco Dormino.
By Adetola Salau
I dream of an Africa which is at peace with itself. – Nelson Mandela
For the next 30 years, we will have almost 20 million youth joining the workforce. This is a crisis and an opportunity rolled into one. The key question is: Which way are we going to let it play out?
In order for Africa to take advantage of this as an opportunity, the emergent demography must be boosted with skills and jobs created for them. It is a daunting task, as there is so much that has to be done.
There is a lot of uncertainty on the global stage. Tensions between the United States and China, Britain’s leaving the European Union, etc., all creating disarray. The International Monetary Fund’s last month’s forecast was gloomy, as global growth for 2018 and 2019 could fall to 3.7 per cent, a falloff of 0.2 percentage points from preceding estimates.
Yet with this decline, there is a golden opportunity and Africa has the right stuff to position itself to utilise it.
The World Bank states that six of the world’s ten fastest growing economies are in Africa. Trade within Africa will be a opening to future local and international growth. The continent’s escalating population will create new prospects across borders. The most critical thing to note is that Africa’s workforce is on the threshold of a dramatic enlargement. Currently, over 50 per cent of Africans are younger than 25, and 41 per cent are under the age of 15. By 2050, Africa’s youth population is expected to surpass 800 million.
The other side of the coin is the fact that despite this, most of our youth in Africa aren’t ready to capture these economic possibilities. The African Union’s report for 2018 depicts that the African youth will bear grim consequences if they are unemployable for the 21st century. This could relegate an entire generation and lead them down a path of disorder for which will unleash dire penalties for all.
In a nutshell, this means that African governments have a time limit to match job growth with skills training. Regrettably, only a few African nations are addressing this situation effectively.
The African Development Bank states that the unemployment rate for the youth in Africa is two times that of adults. This has severe effects already as too many primary schools endure grinding teacher shortages. Changing situations like these require tremendous investment of political and financial capital.
A major way to utilise our looking population explosion is to expand training initiatives that boost our youth with 21st century skills (full disclosure – this is the work that our social enterprise does; we focus on STEM skills). As a scientist and an engineer, I attest to the transformative power of well-developed learning schemes for our youth.
Africa’s progress depends on it’s ability to deploy its population explosion by boosting its youth with technological and innovative skills, which we know will drive economic prosperity.
By 2030, 20 per cent of the world’s population will be African. Dwell upon that mind-blowing fact. This size means that the African workforce has the ability to drive global growth for decades. In order to do this, Africans must execute the necessary restructuring today. We must help position our youth for achieving this feat. If African countries rise up to this test, economic advancement will be our reward.
Salau, Carismalife4U@gmail.com, an advocate of STEM education, public speaker, author, and social entrepreneur, is passionate about education reform.