ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast – The youth of Africa must be empowered to be competitive in order to play a more meaningful role in the continent’s economic transformation drive, urged African Development Bank’s Acting Chief Economist and Vice-President for Economic Governance and Knowledge Management, Charles Lufumpa.
“A skilled and empowered youth workforce is a valuable asset that can help African economies accelerate the momentum of their structural transformation and economic development,” Lufumpa said ahead of the 2019 African Economic Conference (AEC), scheduled to open next week in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm El Sheikh.
Since its inception in 2006, the AEC has fostered the exchange of knowledge on challenges facing Africa. The forum is being hosted jointly by the African Development Bank, the Economic Commission for Africa and the United Nations Development Programme on the theme: “Jobs, Entrepreneurship and Capacity Development for African Youths.”
Lufumpa believes this year’s forum offers an “ideal opportunity” to revisit the debate on educating African youth and improving their jobs, skills, and capacity in light of recent continental and global structural changes.
“It is also the appropriate avenue for stakeholders to discuss innovative and successful practices to educate the youth, improve their skills, and create quality jobs amid high youth population growth and the current disruptive technological transformation,” said the Bank’s Chief Economist.
While welcoming efforts by some African countries in adopting good policies on youth employment, Lufumpa hopes the Sharm el-Sheikh dialogue, which is expected to rally together more than 350 participants, will produce “concrete, bold, and implementable” policy actions.
Nearly half of the speakers invited to the forum are young researchers below 35 years old. “We want them to raise their voices, interact with policymakers, private sector actors including multinational firms such as Safaricom, Microsoft, MasterCard, and LinkedIn, as well as development practitioners such as UNESCO, the ILO, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation to share their thoughts on jobs, entrepreneurship and capacity development,” Lufumpa added.
“Youth employment and empowerment require concerted efforts by governments,” he said, adding that the youth are knowledgeable enough to explain the difficulties they face and provide feedback on why some policies have failed to solve unemployment problems in Africa.
The African Development Bank is in the forefront of the continent’s drive to empower and create jobs for the youth. It is implementing a 10-year strategy (2016–25), “Jobs for Youth in Africa”, designed to provide funding for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprise (MSME) and skills development programmes for the youth in high-priority sectors.
The strategy, currently implemented in a dozen African countries, aims to directly create 25 million jobs and positively impact 50 million youth by 2025.
Lufumpa will lead the Bank’s delegation to the three-day Sharm el-Sheikh meetings.