Daily Maverick, 14 August 2023

Holding claim to the world’s most youthful population – around 60% below 25 – Africa faces a major challenge: securing decent and fairly paid work for its rapidly growing young workforce.

This is no mean feat. The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in working hour losses equivalent to 13.5 million full-time jobs on the continent – pushing more than 4.9 million workers and their families into extreme poverty. While some countries fare better than others, Africa as a whole still lags behind other parts of the world in its employment recovery from the crisis.

At the same time, much of the work that does exist is in the informal economy – 83% of all African employment, according to the International Labour Organisation – characterised by low wages and miserable working conditions that keep workers, and their families, trapped in poverty, driving many young people to leave the continent in search of better futures elsewhere.

Getting young Africans into work is clearly a policy priority for governments across the continent, yet the tendency has been to rely on economic growth to do so. While many economies on the continent are indeed growing, the pace of growth has been unable to address the scale of need and has often been jobless growth.

Solving Africa’s youth unemployment puzzle cannot be left to markets alone. It is time for a radical rethink. Time for a job guarantee.

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