Tackling the youth employment challenge in Africa: MasterCard Foundation Workshop

Youth Employment Challenge

Africa is the youngest and fastest-growing continent in the world. Africa has the youngest population in the world, and it’s growing fast. By 2055, the continent’s youth population (aged 18-35), is expected to be more than double the 2015 total of 226 million. The youth account for 60% of all African unemployed, according to the World Bank. There is a significant gap between the number of youth seeking employment and the work opportunities available. There is also a mismatch between the skills offered by the youth and the needs of the employers.

In tackling youth unemployment, it is important to note that there is a disconnect between curriculum-based learning at primary, secondary and university levels with the requisite skills needed by the employers. Despite the initiatives adopted by various governments towards enhancing skill development, it was pointed by the various employers in the room that there still exists a large gap between supply and demand. This can be observed through the high number of students who express their frustrations by way of limited job opportunities

As an organization, our strategy is to build partnerships with foundations that offer scholarships to students across the world who come back to seek employment opportunities. We are focussed on finding solutions to the youth employment challenges in return promoting the Sustainable Development Goal 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth)

Improving youth employment

Addressing youth unemployment calls for innovation, investment and commitment among all stakeholders. Companies and organizations should help young graduates boost their skills by providing internships, apprenticeships, on-the-job training and mentoring. Employers have an important role to play in providing viable pathways into the workforce, particularly amid uncertainty about exactly what the future of work will look like. This can be achieved through partnering with local high schools, to creating internal skills development programs, to identifying the skills they need and communicating these skills to local education and other partners. Partnerships with education institutions repeatedly surface as a crucial strategy in providing employees with opportunities to develop the requisite skills and knowledge

Youth employability is linked to SDG 8  which focusses on Inclusive and sustainable economic growth. This SDG promotes sustained economic growth, higher levels of productivity and technological innovation. Encouraging entrepreneurship and job creation are key to this, as are effective measures to eradicate forced labour, slavery and human trafficking. With these targets in mind, the goal is to achieve full and productive employment, and decent work, for all women and men by 2030.

In order to improve youth employability, it is important that career advisers at schools should tap into the students’  skills and help steer them on a career path. Students need to be provided with a sense of direction regarding career pathways and be made aware of the vast opportunities out there for them. The young people should also develop skills (soft skills included) that are sought after by employers. Creativity, persuasion, time management, adaptability and time management are the most demanded soft skills by employers.

Entrepreneurship; Teaching young people the skills to start, manage and operate their own businesses would be the first step in creating a more independent and driven generation of youth. The government also needs to invest more in agriculture, tourism, construction and also in projects that employ young people.

 “Everyone wants to be successful, but I want to be looked back on as being very innovative, very trusted and ethical and ultimately making a big difference in the world.” Sergey Brin