YOUNG PEOPLE in Africa must be prepared for jobs of the future rather than jobs of the past the president of the African Development Bank has said.
Akinwumi Adesina was speaking at the launch of the Bank’s flagship African Economic Outlook.
The African Economic Outlook is an annual report that provides updates and forecasts of the continent’s economic performance.
‘A workforce for the future’
The theme of the 2020 report is Developing Africa’s ‘Workforce for the Future.’
According to the report nearly two-thirds of the continent’s youth are undereducated and ill-prepared to meet the future challenges of the global economy.
Adesina said: “Given the fast pace of change, driven by the 4th industrial revolution – from artificial intelligence to robotics, machine learning, quantum computing – Africa must invest more in re-directing and re-skilling its labour force, and especially the youth, to effectively participate.”
The report also highlighted some broader issues faced by those young people who are highly educated.
Over 12 million graduates enter the continent’s labour market each year but only 3 million of them get jobs, leading to rising youth unemployment levels in recent years.
According to the 2020 African Economic Outlook skill and education mismatches affect youth labour productivity indirectly through wages, job satisfaction, and job searching.
Highly African youth earn, on average, 18 percent less than peers who work in jobs that require lower levels of education.
Young people who believe they are overskilled for jobs are 3.4 percent less likely to be satisfied with their current jobs, and as a consequence may be less productive.
The report contained several recommendations for reversing negative trends and creating productive and adequate workforces.
Designing national strategies
These include designing national strategies for education and skills development that include young people, school dropouts, workers in the informal economy, and in economically and socially disadvantaged groups.
In recent years the African Development Bank has attempted to address the continent’s skills gap through targeted support to scientific centres of excellence, such as the African University of Science and Technology.
It has also invested in the Kigali Institute for Science and Technology, which provides world-class training in ICT at postgraduate level in collaboration with the Carnegie Mellon University.
Training in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is critical to overcoming the continent’s “mountain of youth unemployment,” Adesina said.
The fourth industrial revolution
Hanan Morsy, the Bank’s Director of Macroeconomic Policy, Forecasting and Research, said the fourth industrial revolution offered challenges and opportunities for developing education and accelerating skills acquisition in Africa and pointed to some things that national governments could do.
She said: “African countries can achieve universal primary enrolment by just improving the efficiency of education spending. Investing in education and infrastructure offers a greater growth payoff than investing exclusively in either.”