Over the next 10 years, Africa will have created about 122 million new jobs, says the World Bank Youth Employment in Sub-Saharan Africa Report. Although this is a very exciting forecast, mass job availability alone won’t be enough to address the unemployment issues in Africa, especially when the new jobs are not proportional to the influx of unemployed youth. Furthermore, the pace at which these jobs are being created falls short of the rate of youth entering the job market per year. During the next ten years that it takes for Africa to finally create the new jobs, eleven million youth will have been entering the labor market each year.
While education has its role in ensuring a productive working class, it too doesn’t seem to be the only antidote for the continent’s unemployed youth. Today, the average Ghanaian or Zambian youth has more schooling than an average French or Italian in 1960. Despite this being the most educated generation Africa has ever seen (the region’s primary school completion rate increased from 51 percent in 1990 to 70 percent in 2011), they are still largely disadvantaged in the job hunt. During the stiff competition for jobs with contracts, employers tend to favor those with more work experience. By no fault of their own, many educated young people are often shortlisted due to lack of exposure to the labor market.
By next year alone, Sub-Saharan Africa will have 193 million people between the ages of 15 and 24. Most of these young people will find themselves working on farms and small household enterprises. Currently, nearly 70 percent of 18 year old African youth work on farms, leaving only a small percent spread across technology, health, business, and other sectors. While having such a large number of young people involved in agriculture makes for very bright prospects for the continent –agriculture is after all Africa’s largest sector – diversifying economies would provide additional jobs for young Africans.