African Youth are too NEET!

Unemployed youth in Zambia

Unemployed youth in Zambia

Despite the fast growing economies in Africa, its youth have been left NEET (not in employment, in education or in training).

1 in 5 Africans are aged 15-24 and the number expected to double by 2024. According to McKinsey, by 2040 Africa’s will have a working age population of 1bn, greater than India and China combined. With the rest of the world aging, Africa will have the majority of those of working age. Africa needs to retain these on the continent or will they move abroad for greener pastures and develop economies of other continents.

A large working age population could be a resoirvoir of human capital that can drive disruptive innovation, new ideas, economic productivity and improved social welfare. Though in the current situation where there is a lack of economic & employment opportunity excarbated by poor living conditions this population could be the source of social insecurity and instability.

1 in 2 young people in rebel movements quote unemployment as their main reason for joining.

Despite the ~80 million jobs created in Africa the last decade, less than a quarter have gone to the young aged 15-24, hence 60% of Africa’s youth find themselves unemployed, or underemployed in informal jobs with low productivity & low pay. The shrinkage doubled with politicisation of the public sector has reduced the jobs that were initially intended for graduates, and also the loss of low skilled manufacturing in wealthier African countries means less jobs for the unskilled or semi-skilled labour.

This means the few employed youth in Africa find themselves in informal employment, and are self employed usually as street traders or freelance labourers, motorcycle transporters. This kind of work is very vulnerable, temporary, unstable with low levels of safety and worker rights.

Even those on wage employment, a significant number don’t receive a decent wage which has led to increased working poverty, and the propensity of most workers in formal employment to have ‘side businesses’. This entrepenurial spirit is a means of survival and also due to the lack of safety nets that developed countries take for granted and seem so eager to destroy.

A lot of the unemployed youth have been discouraged by the job market. This discouragement is highest among the least educated who put it down to their lack of skills for the marketplace, and least among the most highly educated who mainly claim that their unemployment is due to a lack of jobs that suit their skills.

There is more to youth unemployment to than this with other factors like the wrong educational curriculum not training youth for the private sector, not enough jobs being created, marginalisation of the informal sector, oversupply in some sectors, degree inflation, lack of information, highly networked societies and gender bias.

Over the next few weeks, the team at MoneyInAfrica will release more articles on what is hindering youth employment and ideas on how to overcome it.

Your comments are welcomed to enrich the debate and shape the implementation of these ideas.

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About Andrew Kwabena

The Editor of MoneyInAfrica

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