The 2019 African Economic Conference (AEC) opened in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm El Sheikh on Monday with a call on African policymakers to take bold steps to tackle red-tape and high startup costs in order to create decent and well-paying jobs for the continent’s youth.
Addressing the opening plenary of the three-day conference, Egypt’s Minister of Investment and International Cooperation, Sahar Nasr said the conference provided a critical platform to address the challenges of jobs for the youth on the continent.
“Africa is the next development frontier and the youth will be the main drivers of our continent and our hope for a new continent,” Nasr said. “We need to think strategically and plan for the youths of today.”
For the country’s Central Bank Governor, Tarek Amer, who is also Egypt’s Governor for the African Development Bank, “this is a matter that all policy makers across our continent are concerned about – we all have a vision to create jobs and boost entrepreneurship…and the issue is how to convert the vision into reality.”
Charles Leyeka Lufumpa, acting Chief Economist and Vice President of the African Development Bank Group, said a lack of jobs for the bulging youth population has become a troubling socio-economic and political emergency that requires urgent, pragmatic and forward-looking solutions.
“It is troubling because joblessness could result in unrest and conflict. Having a decent job is an essential part of human dignity, and joblessness could threaten our social fabric and cohesion.”
The Bank has several other initiatives that have contributed significantly to youth empowerment across Africa. Notable among them is its Jobs for Youth Strategy to create 25 million jobs by 2025 and to equip another 50 million young people with a mix of hard and soft skills to increase their employability and entrepreneurial success.
With a little more than a decade left to achieve the targets of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development , the issue of youth productivity is critical for Africa, not least because the working age population is central to improving the continent’s productivity and competitiveness.
Adam Elhiraika, Director of Macroeconomics and Governance Division at the ECA, said to prepare young people for productive future work, governments should include in the educational curriculum action-oriented entrepreneurship modules for secondary, technical schools and universities.
Governments and development partners must help young entrepreneurs to identify financial help schemes, including grant schemes for innovative ideas with multiplier benefits, revolving and guarantee funds.
“Africa should work hard to make its cities engines of growth that in turn will generate employment for the youth and ensure there’s equitable growth on the continent thus ensuring no-one is left behind as enunciated in the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” Elhiraika said.
One of the highlights of this year’s conference is a session for young African researchers to share their work and be the key proponents in shaping the future of the continent.
Raymond Gilpin, Chief Economist of UNDP Africa describes African youth as “Africa’s bright future, a unique opportunity and Africa’s long-awaited positive disrupters” and called upon partners to “provide policy advice that helps to bridge gaps between nations and within nations, elevate peer networking and to facilitate platforms for the connection of ideas across borders for greater impact”.
The AEC is jointly organized by the African Development Bank, the Economic Commission for Africa and the United Nations Development Programme yearly to discuss pertinent issues affecting the continent. This year’s event, the fourteenth edition, is hosted by the Bank on the theme; “Jobs, entrepreneurship and capacity development for African youth”.