A job is defined as an “activity that generates actual or imputed income, monetary or in kind, formal or informal” (World Bank, 2012e).  This  includes  part-  or  full-time  in- household economic activities, such as subsistence farming, regardless  of  whether  anything  is  ever  sold.  A  job—be  it  for  a  wage  or  not—is  almost  always  more  than  just  an  income.  A job affects a person’s core sense of identity and at the same time establishes how a person is perceived by society. The kind of job that people do exerts a powerful influence on their social well-being and economic development.

underemployment and poor working conditions in the informal economy are key features of youth employment in  Africa,  mainly  due  to  insufficient  quantity  and  quality  of  jobs available in the formal economy. Desperate to find work, many youth resort to taking on precarious, underpaid, and seasonal work mostly in the informal economy. Already socially and economically marginalised youth groups face even more challenges. Young women may be pushed aside as many employers favour men. Even educated youth turn to underpaid work out of economic necessity.

Most youth are employed in jobs characterised by low return, long hours, limited personal and job security, zero social protection and high levels of decent work deficits. Emergence of increased discouragement and disenchantment among educated youth aggravated by financial crisis is another dimension of the youth employment crisis. Across Africa, youth are faced with bleaker life prospects and are disenchanted with policies and established institutions for failing to provide them with opportunities to fully reach their potential and to live in dignity. In Zimbabwe for example, young people are losing interest in being educated because wages and salaries are low and unattractive. They are also experiencing unfair labour practices. Youth are migrating away.

Even in the midst of this situation, the number of young people entering Africa’s working-age population will be rising for years to come. The united Nations estimates that in 2015 Sub-Saharan Africa will have 193 million people between the ages of 15 and 24; by 2035, it will have 295 million,  and  by  2050,  362  million  (figure  1.3).  Each year between 2015 and 2035, there will be half a million more 15-year olds than the year before.

Since 2000, Africa has seen more than a decade of economic growth, the longest continuous expansion in more than 50 years.  Until  the  2008–09  global  economic  crisis,  Africa’s  GDP grew relatively rapidly, averaging 5 percent a year, and  growth  had  resumed  by  2010  (figure  1.6).  Between 1998 and 2008, mineral-exporting countries experienced an exceptionally steep rise in GDP; 22 countries that are not oil producers averaged 4 percent growth or higher. In spite of this, labour force participation of young people in Africa decreased slightly in the decade between 1998 and 2008, but showed suggestions of a reversal in 2009. Policy: The structure of employment in African Countries. Africa’s dependence on commodity exports, aid, and domestic demand as sources of growth has not led to a major transformation in employment. Although agriculture’s share in GDP fell substantially, almost 60 percent of Africa’s labour force in 2010 still reported that agriculture was their main economic activity.

Many African macroeconomic policies are also too heavily focused on export-commodities. In countries like Zimbabwe and Zambia, there is an over-dependence on a few industries and thus with the global economic and financial crisis leading to declines in the formal sector, industries close down and few new jobs are created. Weak enabling environment undermines good policy commitments to promote youth employment. In DRC, Tunisia and Tanzania, as examples, on-going corruption, lack of good governance and transparency in government structures have been reported to be encouraging unfair recruitment practices that disadvantage youth. Problems of clientelism, political nepotism and tribalism are common.

Over the next few weeks, the thematic section will expand with the addition of information about the latest news and innovations taken by civil society, government, and grass-roots level activists in these sectors. Simply, our goal for this section is to ask ourselves: What is happening with youth iniatives in Africa and what innovations can we learn from? But, we need your help to make that a reality. If you come across some interesting news and information about health, employment, education, and access to technology and capital, please send an email here and we will get back to you.

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