Creating Jobs for Africa’s Growing Population


  • Africa’s working age population is expected to grow by 450 million people, or close to 70 percent, by 2035.
  • New analysis shows that without effective policy change, there will only be about 100 million new jobs for this growing cadre of working people.
  • But with well-targeted capital investments (physical and human), and policies fostering competitiveness and productivity, Africa’s larger and younger work force has the potential to transform the continent for the better.

Africa’s population is growing faster than jobs are created, and whether the trend continues or can be reversed will have much to do with whether the continent generates prosperity or instability in the coming decades.

This is a conclusion of The Africa Competitiveness Report 2017, released today by the World Economic Forum, the African Development Bank, and the World Bank Group.

With the right combination of policies implemented speedily and effectively, Africa can turn its growing working-age population into a “demographic dividend” in which incomes rise, families can save and invest, cities offer affordable housing, productivity rises, and more investments can take place.

Failure to strengthen government institutions, improve infrastructure, and promote near- and long-term job creation will lead to a widening gap between the rising population and available employment. The report projects that Africa’s working age population should grow by 450 million people but that the continent’s economies, without significant policy reform, will likely produce only 100 million new jobs.

Despite challenging trends, the report offers a positive outlook, grounded in Africa’s economic performance over the past decade and the growing awareness among governments of the need for reform.

" A growing labor force and a large and emerging consumer market hold the promise of significant growth opportunities. "

The Africa Competitiveness Report 2017

“Looking ahead, the continent’s young and increasing population presents an unprecedented opportunity to spur rapid development,” Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group, and Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, write in the report’s preface. “A growing labor force and a large and emerging consumer market hold the promise of significant growth opportunities.”

The report, which includes detailed country-specific data, prescribes a number of policy reforms to improve the quality of institutions, infrastructure, skills and adoption of new technology. It recommends initiatives tailored to particular country and regional needs, with a special emphasis on the challenges and opportunities posed by rapid urbanization across Africa.

In the short term, sector-specific reforms focusing on labor-intensive sectors such as agribusiness, construction, and micro-enterprises, targeted support for vulnerable regions, regional trade integration to help develop manufacturing, and greater economic diversification have the potential to spark rapid job growth. Longer term reforms should focus on strengthening institutions, improving infrastructure, accelerating technology adoption, and enhancing job skills will be critical.

The overall aim is job creation.

“The concrete possibility of ‘reaping the demographic dividend,’” the report states, “depends crucially on the extent to which the working-age population is actually employed.”