The World Bank has said 80 percent of Africa’s workforce will continue to work on small farms and in household businesses in the near future.
In a new comprehensive report titled Youth Employment in Sub-Saharan Africa the bank says that while the modern wage sector is growing fast in some countries, it cannot create enough jobs to meet the youth employment challenge now preoccupying governments in every corner of the continent.
“Attracting investment into large enterprises that create wage jobs in the mainstream ‘formal’ economy is critical, but it is only part of the solution to Africa’s youth employment challenge,” said Makhtar Diop, World Bank vice-president for Africa, in a statement accompanying the report.
He said for the millions of young people who are just surviving in the hidden ‘informal’ sector, they will need greater access to land, skills training and credit to thrive.
This, he says, will be a game-changer for small farmers and entrepreneurs who will prosper as African economies grow, in close cooperation with the private sector.
Diop said making high-quality science and technology education more accessible to young people and shaping higher education courses to fit the skills needed by the modern jobs market is increasingly a high priority for many African countries.
New development partners such as China, India and Brazil are actively working with the World Bank to help develop these science and technology skills for Africa’s youth, he said.
The report further said with more than half of sub-Saharan Africa’s population now under the age of 25, and as many as 11 million young Africans expected to join the labour market every year for the next decade, creating millions of productive, well-paying jobs will be vital to boost economic growth, significantly cut poverty and create shared prosperity in Africa.
With many African economies having registered impressive economic growth in recent years, poverty levels across the region have not fallen as much as expected and young people looking for better-paying work have been at a great disadvantage, according to the report.
This is partly because many African countries rely heavily on oil, gas and mineral extraction which boosts economic growth, but does little to create new jobs for the region’s fast-growing youth population or reduce overall rates of poverty.
The report showed that sub-Saharan Africa has seen a rapid increase in the number of children who complete primary school, from about 50 percent in 1991 to 70 percent in 2011.
For example, it said, the average young Ghanaian or Zambian today has more schooling than the average French or Italian citizen had in 1960.
“The current cohort of youth in sub-Saharan Africa will be the most schooled ever. Educational attainment shapes employment opportunities, as reflected in the substantial variation in the educational profiles of young workers in each sector,” it said.