Solutions to Youth Unemployment in Africa

By Biodun Awosusi

Delegates at the African Youth and Governance Conference 2012 at the Kofi Annan International Peace Keeping Training Centre (KAIPTC), Accra Ghana.

There are millions of unemployed youth in Africa. The continent has 200million people between 15 and 24 years of age. According to the Population Research Bureau, Africa has the fastest growing and most youthful population in the world. The International Labor Organization says 3 out of 5 unemployed people in Africa are young people. Sadly, there are limited jobs and opportunities for this huge number of people.

These unemployed young people are readily available for anti-social activities that undermine the stability of society and threaten economic growth. Jorge Saba Arbache of the Africa Region of the World Bank says ‘unemployed and underemployed youth are more exposed to conflicts and illegal activities-many of them fall prey to armed and rebel conflicts’. The effects are palpable in the Arab springs in North Africa, rebel conflicts in Mali and Democratic Republic of Congo, and involvement of young people in terrorist attacks by Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al-Shabab in Somalia.

How do we address this challenge? How do we create opportunities for young people? How do we harness the potentials of the youth bulge in the continent? These questions and more were the focus of discussions at the 4th African Youth and Governance which held at the Kofi Annan International Peace Keeping Training Centre, Teshe Accra between 8th and 10th of August, 2012.  UNFPA, UNDP, and UNESCO supported the African Heritage Festival; other sponsors include CDD-Ghana, Newmont Ghana Gold, Zoomlion, Voltic Ghana, Grace Petroleum, RLG, Yetron Sevices, B&FT, eTV, TV3 and the African Diplomatic Corps in Ghana.

I joined Aanu Damola Morenikeji, Ayodeji Okunola, Olusola Amusan,  Bola Adams, Oguntoyinbo Stephen, Damilare Adeyemi, Lilly Oseyda Mensah, Edith Asamani, Emmanuel Marfo and delegates from 31 African countries, the diaspora and participants from Australia and Germany for fruitful discussions that culminated in the creation of the African Youth Communique  titled: “THE ACCRA YOUTH ACCORD 2012”


Youth development efforts of governments at local and regional levels are noted particularly the declaration of the Decade of Youth Development in Africa and the focus on youth development at the17th African Union Summit held in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea and the Ouagadougou 2004 Plan of Action on Employment Promotion and Poverty Alleviation.

African governments should collaborate further to adopt sustainable best practices that have worked on the continent. They should promote partnerships for job creation, and incorporate entrepreneurship into education at all levels.

Young people should be proactive, led community development initiatives and engage in volunteering. They should also network with peers from other African countries through AYGC and other similar initiatives.

The Private sector should partner with government, education institutions and youth organizations to create jobs and opportunities for young people. Development partners should support creation of African Youth Development Bank and promote exchange programs for African youth.


WE, the youth of Africa gathered once again in Accra for the 4th African Youth and Governance (AYG) Conference anchored on the theme “Partnerships for Job Creation: A Wheel for Transformational Governance” were faced, a couple of weeks earlier, with an exceptional challenge of whether or not to hold the continental Conference in the wake of the sudden death of the President of Republic of Ghana, H.E. John Evans Atta Mills and the fact that the date for the Conference coincided with the dates of the funeral,

Recalling events in which the then Vice President and now President John Dramani -Mahama assured the AYG-Conference 2009 delegates of Government of Ghana’s commitment to finalizing the National Youth Policy and the fulfillment of this promise at the climax of AYG-Conference 2010 with the launch of the National Youth Policy, the demonstrated commitment to youth development in Ghana by ratifying the African Youth Charter three months after committing to this course in response to AYG-Conference 2010 call, and the sustained interest in the AYG-Conference initiative,

APRECIATING the support of the Government of Ghana to the AYG-Conference initiative since its inception in 2009 by creating the enabling environment and facilitating travel arrangements of international delegates including security services,

Having resolved after extensive consultations that it was appropriate and even an honorable duty to hold the conference on its initial dates of 8-10 August as it enshrines and emulates the values that were dear to the departed leader, H.E. John Evans Atta Mills,

Recognizing the efforts of African Governments in placing the youth agenda at the fore through the declaration of the Decade of Youth Development in Africa and the focus on youth development at the17th African Union Summit held in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea with a call on African governments “to advance the youth agenda and adopt policies and mechanisms towardsthe creation of safe, decent and competitive employment opportunities byaccelerating the implementation of the Youth Decade Plan of Action(2009-2018) and the Ouagadougou 2004 Plan of Action on EmploymentPromotion and Poverty Alleviation”

REITERATING that Africa’s greatest resource is its youthful population and that byharnessing the opportunities that the continent’s youth bulge presents, Africans can surmount the challenges that lie ahead,

REACKNOWLEDGING with great delight, the drive among African youth towards self-empowerment and innovation, as well as their tireless, optimistic, innovative and constructive contributions to the advancement of African nations,

GUIDED by the Constitutive Act of the African Union, the African Youth Charter and the Youth Decade Plan of Action (2009 – 2018),

And following two days of deliberations and active participation of youth from 31 African Countries, African Diaspora and participants from Australia and Germany, from 8thto 9thAugust 2012at the Kofi Annan International Peace Keeping Training Centre, Accra, and a third day of full participation in the final funeral ceremony of the late President of Republic of Ghana, HE John Evans Atta Mills on 10th August 2012,


  • That despite some efforts by African governments to address youth unemployment and youth development issues, they remain overwhelmed by the magnitude of the challenge.
  • That for example, only 5% of the eligible University enrollment age are in University, in spite of the efforts in promoting higher education.
  • The problem of youth unemployment is much bigger when we consider the larger African population that has not received any formal education or employable skills.
  • This challenge is accentuated by the increasing global competitiveness among the world’s knowledge based societies and the mis-match of Africa’s educational systems with labour market trends.
  • That most African youth employment models are limited in terms of beneficiaries they can accommodate, they also tend to be short-term, not sustainable, not integrated into the national development plans, reproduce gender-inequalities and do not embrace the already socially marginalized groups such as Persons with Disability (PWDs) and rural youth.
  • African governments fail to build on existing models of youth employment programs but consistently seek to reinvent the wheel for political exigency.
  • Inadequate collaboration between African governments in sharing best practices of youth employment programs and models.
  • That Public-Private Partnership models are not sufficiently synchronized with youth entrepreneurship programs.
  • That youth participation and representation in the design of employment models are minimal.
  • The lack of country-based, national agendas that clearly outline long-term, properly-funded and well-coordinated programs dedicated to the advancement of Africa’s youth.
  • The increasing cost of micro-financing and the absence of a financial institutional structure that finances youth entrepreneurship and caters for youth developmental needs.
  • The urgency of African youth deciding to learn from models and policy dialogues in economically advanced countries mindful of the need to adapt these models to the respective national context.
  • That, African governments are not able to solely address youth unemployment challenges.
  • The lack of global corporate responsibility to African youth development.
  • Poor dissemination and lack of sensitization of continental and national youth-focused policy documents and programs among the youth.
  •  Young people are not well informed on their reproductive health and fail to make good decisions due in part to the absence of adequate resource centres.
  • The failure of African youth to be involved in constructive engagements with policy makers.


African Governments

  •  To ensure the active involvement of young people in decision making and policy development process both at the national, sub-regional and continental levels;
  • To develop and promote, with youth input, eGovernment platforms to elicit youth input into policy formulation and feedback on duty bearers;
  • To create the enabling environment to promote partnerships for job creations;
  • To develop models to attract youth to agribusiness and increasingly invest in the agriculture sector which has the potential of employing millions of youth;
  • To set up a national youth development fund to be seeded with a 1% allocation of GDP;
  • To upgrade national educational infrastructure to match labour market requirements;
  • To promote decentralization of local governance to facilitate Partnerships at local levels and for easier access to local employment opportunities;
  • Entrepreneurship education must be embedded in educational systems at all levels;
  • To broaden the scope of exchanges and learning of workable models that must be adapted to the national developmental need and culture;
  • To develop a holistic educational system wherein essential guidance and career counseling are provided;
  • To intensify its partnership with the private sector and development partners in providing incubators to prepare African youth for the job market, and particularly to assist young entrepreneurs in establishing their businesses at regional, national and sub-national levels;
  • To integrate issues on sexuality and rights into the school curricula at all levels of educational systems to support young people in making informed decisions;
  • To create adequate infrastructure to accommodate Adolescence Sexual Reproductive Health Centres to meet current needs and the diversity of young people including minority groups, in school and out of school.

 Young People in Africa

  • To be proactive through continuous learning and knowledge seeking in building their capacities for meaningful representation and engagement at national, sub-regional and continental levels;
  • To partner and strategically network with peers to facilitate information and experience sharing as well as unleash the national and regional potential for formation of joint-venture and corporate partnership;
  • Youth should use existing structures such as the AYG-Conference Initiative to network;
  • Embrace volunteerism as a cost-effective means to develop skills and gain experience;
  • To bundle resources through partnerships and cooperatives as a means to garner seed-money and improve eligibility for credit from financial institutions.

Private Sector and Civil Society Stakeholders

  • To collaborate with education institutions in the skill-oriented programming;
  • To collaborate with African governments and youth entrepreneurs in the formation of Partnerships;
  • To mentor young entrepreneurs and businesses;

All Development Partners

  • Support the setting up of the African Youth Development Bank;
  • Promote sustainable partnerships, networking and integration of youth in national development efforts;
  • Expand and deepen direct engagement with Africa’s youth as partners in designing solutions to development challenges;
  • To create the platform for youth engagement between African youth and youth of Development Partners to promote and support Africa’s youth development efforts.

Dated 12th August, 2012.



  1. well. there is room 4 adjustment. Nigeria youth can take a giant stride by not rely on govt. tho we can do without govt in d area of power supply. i could rmember when i was in Technical college. most of my friends ar skillfull. they can invent many tins in early 90s.but where ar d moltivators. who ar d supporters.

    1. Atiba, thank you for your comment. You and your skills can deploy those useful skills to create businesses. You can approach the Bank of Industry for loans.

  2. Great piece. It all sums up to one thing: if we are the leaders of tomorrow, the leaders of today should start letting us gain experience. Motivation is key!!!

    1. Wale, thanks for your comment. Are we really leaders of tomorrow? I think we are leaders of today, and we can begin to make changes wherever we are.

  3. It’s time that we as youth look at the resources that are there in our countries. we should be asking ourselves what is it that investors are seeing in Africa that we not seeing. creating complete value chains in various sectors maybe the answer to the unemployment rate in Africa. After all it’s our time our resources. Lets utilize what we have and be entreprenuers and create more job opportunities

    1. Rumbidzai, thank you for your insightful contributions. We need to harness the opportunities around us, as you rightly noted.

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