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Youth Leaders Share Ideas to Tackle Youth Employment in Africa

February 4, 2014


  • Youth representatives from various African countries recently participated in a forum to address the challenge of youth employment in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • The youth forum was held during the 22nd African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, January 21 – 31, 2014
  • The two-day event included Heads of State, heads of development organizations and regional organizations, who met to discuss the youth recommendations

ADDIS ABABA, February 4, 2014 – During the 22nd African Union Summit, African youth representatives gathered to discuss recommendations for improving prospects for youth employment to be presented to AU Heads of State from countries throughout the continent.

“Accelerate Youth Employment in Africa” was the topic of discussion during the two-day African Union and Obasanjo Foundation African Youth Forum, with participants focused on ways to stimulate youth empowerment and employment in Africa from policy, labor market and philanthropic perspectives. Youth leaders offered ideas ranging from providing training and internships, to creating more job opportunities specifically for recent graduates.

“Youth must be encouraged to be job creators instead of job searchers,” said Asfaw, an engineering student. “Policy makers must create favorable conditions to support youths in this aspect, such as providing financing.” 

" Youth must be encouraged to be job creators instead of job searchers, "


Engineering student

Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, chairperson of the African Union Commission, and former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo hosted the luncheon and presented the youth recommendations to the Heads of State, heads of development agencies and regional organizations. Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice President for Africa led the World Bank delegation to the AU Summit, and also attended the African Youth Forum.

Despite impressive growth experienced by many African nations in recent years, poverty and youth employment remain persistent challenges. During the event, various Heads of State and their representatives laid out their priorities to directly address those challenges.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn highlighted the need to understand the frustrations of youth and help them to be better organized to direct that frustration toward productive purposes. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta described a number of youth-targeted programs implemented in Kenya and emphasized that policies must recognize that "youth are not just the future, but the present." 

A representative speaking on behalf of Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaoré referred to messages from the recently-launched World Bank report, Youth Employment in Sub-Saharan Africa, to urge a comprehensive approach to the challenges of youth employment. The report argues that governments must not only carry out reforms that attract investment into large enterprises that can create formal wage jobs, but also, and just as importantly, ramp up efforts to support the rural and urban informal sectors, and equip young people working in those sectors to develop better livelihoods.

Deon Filmer, co-author of the report, cautions that youth employment is not a one-dimensional challenge and that policies must address the multiple constraints that youth fact in reaching their goals.

The event concluded by further encouraging the youth to  participate actively in poverty reduction, creating a strong pan African organization and  reminding governments of the importance of providing a conducive environment for youth leadership at all levels.