Four sensible ideas for helping African youth gain meaningful employment

Youth Skills

Four sensible ideas for helping African youth gain meaningful employment

What system provides jobs for African youth? Photo: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/noxstar/7190911722/sizes/m/in/photostream/”> Espen Faugstad(Flickr)</a>
What system provides jobs for African youth? Photo: Espen Faugstad(Flickr)

Following a new movement to increase youth employment, the African Economic Outlook (AEO) published a report this year outlining African youth employment opportunities and needs. One component of the report highlighted four changes that need to take place.

1. Government departments and action groups must be more closely coordinated in developing their skills training programs.

Many groups are trying to help increase employment but the vast number aren’t working in concert. Job creation and skill development programs are also typically divided among many branches of government. Without clear coordination, groups may over-provide in some areas while leaving other needs underserved.

2. Comprehensive employment data is needed.

Reports on employment in many African countries are often incomplete or simply not done, particularly when it comes to segmenting data by demographics and employment sectors. According to the report, "The lack of data makes it difficult for policy makers to understand the nature of the employment challenge and take informed decisions on how to support young people in the labour market." Programs that create jobs and provide trainings to develop skills need to be refocused on actual labor opportunities.

3. What works? What doesn't? No one knows.

Employment programs base their goals and objectives on the obstacles they think youth face in obtaining jobs. Without data on what these obstacles really are and what works to overcome them, success is hard to achieve. The report notes that "more and better evaluations mixing control group designs with participative methods and cost-effectiveness analysis are needed to help policy makers identify what really works best." Adding to that, the AEO report also finds most programs are insufficiently funded, so programs that do work may not have the opportunity to scale or share lessons learned.

4. Focus on all the factors behind unemployment.

Programs often focus on one aspect of youth unemployment, such as a single job skill or single aspect of financial literacy. But studies show that a much more holistic method is needed. For youth to find jobs and be able to keep them, they need a wide variety of social, technical and financial skills.

Africa has six of the top 10 fastest-growing economies globally. With 200 million youth on the continent, these changes could help youth be part of that growth.

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