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Africa Not Creating Enough Jobs For Youths

Africa is not creating enough jobs to absorb the 10-to-12 million young people entering its labor markets each year. According to the African Development Bank, less than one- fifth of the continent’s young workers find waged employment.

This comes after almost two decades of sustained growth. Africa has garnered lavish praise from aid agencies, investors and journalists, alike. But there is a worrying shadow among the bright lights.

The challenge may have escaped the attention of the cheerleaders because unemployment in Africa seems low. In 2009 it was about six percent. This was not because Africa is doing well at generating wage-paying jobs. Eighty percent of job seekers find themselves in informal employment, self-employment or family labor, which are not considered “good jobs.” In 2011, 82 percent of Africa workers were classified by the ILO as working poor.

Africa’s lack of quality jobs reflects a feature of the region’s growth often overlooked in accounts of its success: Africa’s economic structure has changed very little. The region’s share of manufacturing in GDP is less than one half of the average for all developing countries, and it is declining. The sources of Africa’s recent growth – improved economic management, strong commodity prices and new discoveries of natural resources – are not job creators.

While manufacturing is most closely associated with employment-intensive growth, there are also ‘industries without smokestacks’ in agriculture and services that can create good jobs. Investors in these industries, however, do not see Africa as an attractive location. Domestic private investment has remained at about 11 percent of GDP since 1990. This is well below the level needed for rapid structural change. Foreign investment is overwhelmingly in oil, gas and minerals. Industry in Africa has declined as a share of both global production and trade since the 1980s.

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