Integration of African Youth in West African Workforce

March 02, 2021 | by: David Kodjani

The integration of young Africans into the labor market is a real challenge for the continent because of the demographics. Even if entrepreneurship is an issue, agriculture remains the main outlet for young Africans.

Today in West Africa, we no longer speak of unemployment but rather of "NEET" - ni étudiant, ni employé, ni stagiaire - which represents these young people who are neither students, nor employees, nor trainees and are really discouraged. This is the highest and most representative rate of youth unemployment in Africa, especially in North Africa, where young people have invested the most in higher education. In the Maghreb, the prevalence of youth unemployment is very high, since more than a third of the youth are unemployed. In contrast, in sub-Saharan Africa, the prevalence of poverty is peaking, as 70% of young people live on less than $ 3.1 a day. But all the young people work to support the family. The main problem is the quality of the job and the level of remuneration.

There are around 30 million young people entering the labor market each year. So we have to support job creation at an unprecedented level. The economic and social challenges are immense and young people aged 15 to 29 have never been more educated and more connected. This represents a real opportunity.

Even though women today have much more access to education in Africa, they still face serious difficulties in accessing employment, and especially maintaining it after pregnancy. When they want to create their shops, they are told that they cannot. They will have more difficulty raising funds, having access to the networks essential to set up a business. While evolving positively, there is also the weight of the perception of the family vis-à-vis gender roles even if this is

Nothing can be done in terms of employment if people cannot read or write, are not trained and have no skills. Today, the bet of massive access to education in Africa is rather successful, with a very high access rate to primary school. But lack of investment in colleges from foreign donors remains a major challenge.

Finally, many questions remain about the quality of education and the training of teachers. There are also real issues concerning higher education and vocational training, because many programs are disconnected from the needs of companies and the reality of the world of work. For example, in Nigeria, there are very strong needs in the electricity sector, since the sector has been privatized. But the vocational training system has remained public and has not kept pace with the changing needs of the sector. Teachers have no real world experience and students do not have practical workshops, etc. This leads to a total disconnection between training and future employers.

There is a total disconnection between the aspirations of young people, the perception and expectations of families and the reality of the job market. There is also a problem of correlation between acquired skills and labor market needs. And in reality, there are very few formal jobs. Young people are not well informed about the realities of employment. Public information services on employment and training are themselves disconnected from the private sector, and are therefore ineffective in Africa.

All young people are entrepreneurs in Africa, no one can afford not to work. Everyone has their own small business. But there is a difference between subsistence entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial entrepreneurship, which aims to create jobs. "Entrepreneurship will save Africa" it is often said, but the reality is that not everyone is an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship certainly represents opportunities, but it cannot be the only solution.

Employment is one of the basic human needs, because it is a factor of integration and empowerment. Africa is one of the continents where there are the most unemployed people, constituting a de facto social, political and economic stake for those in power. In fact, the persistence of unemployment can result in the development of crime (case of Nigeria with the "419 scams'' ​​or of Ghana and the Ivory Coast with the phenomenon of "grazing", which even pushes some to commit so-called ritual crimes). To solve the problem, several structures, both national and international, have been set up. This is the case of ADEI in Cape Verde, ADPME in Congo Brazzaville, ADEPME and SYNAPSE CENTER in Senegal, AGRO-PME Foundation in Cameroon, ANPGF and PASYD in Togo, CIPMEN in Niger, FORSCOT and INIE in Côte d'Ivoire, ME in Benin and Burkina Faso or PROMOGABON in Gabon, etc.

The job market receives thousands of graduates every year from schools and vocational training establishments. To these, we must add the multitude of young girls and boys at the end of their apprenticeship in craft structures. Lack of professional experience has always been the main obstacle to getting a job, as companies look more to seniors than to juniors that they would have to train. In this context, short-term contracts (such as internships) are rare. It is estimated that in 89% of African countries, the supply of jobs is insufficient to absorb the demand. The only existing internships are offered by the State through national institutions, in ministries or by certain private companies which have sufficient financial resources to pay interns. Only these internships are not the guarantee of a hiring and the internship can be, sometimes, renewed, to allow the company not to lose the skills but also to have an inexpensive workforce without being worried. Thus companies can keep a candidate in an internship situation for a long time and dispose of them as they wish.

Faced with this mass issue, the State must not be the only one to play its part, the young people themselves must ensure that they succeed by self-training and by acquiring adequate skills for certain areas. specific. In our next articles related to unemployment, we will talk about the 7 traps that keep young people unemployed.

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