Like many African countries, Senegal has a young population in search of decent jobs and salaries. A report covering the last national census of the Senegalese population, published every ten years by l’Agence nationale de la statistique et de la démographie (ANSD) (National Statistics and Demographics Agency), reveals that the average age of the population is approximately 22 years and that one in every two Senegalese is under 18 years of age. Those under 15 years of age represent more than 42% of the population, clearly indicating the predominance of the youth demographic. However, this segment of the population is most affected by under-employment and unemployment with young people representing 60% of job seekers.
In an effort to change this situation, President Macky Sall proclaimed 2016 the “Year of Employment”. The country has launched several initiatives with companies and technical and financial partners such as the lnternational Development Association (IDA). IDA, in collaboration with Agence française de développement (AFD) (French Development Agency) is funding the Skills for Jobs and Competitiveness Project to the tune of $76.5 million dollars ($35 million from IDA and $16.5 million from the AFD) to help the country provide trained and skilled workers for the labor market. This project is concentrating on three priority industries of the Programme Senegal Emergent (Plan for an Emerging Senegal): horticulture, poultry farming, and tourism.
The lack of skills is indeed one of the major obstacles to young people entering the labor market. Senegal must therefore invest in training that is adapted to the needs of the market and improve the general educational level of its youth.
According to a national population census carried out in 2013, more than 1.5 million children between the ages of seven and sixteen had no formal education (French school or Franco-Arab school) and approximately 47% of all school-age children are not enrolled in public schools. This means that a significant percentage of Senegalese youth have never been to school while another segment has not acquired the indispensable, basic skills prior to leaving school.
Thus, beyond broadening the map of initial training with the creation of ten new centers, the Skills for Jobs and Competitiveness Project plans to put into place short training courses lasting between four to six months in order to provide the professional skills sought after on the labor market. Known as “specialization certificates” these training courses are aimed at young people who have left school at a very early age and have no professional skills. It also targets young university graduates who do not have the requisite professional skills or even those who are active in the informal sector and would like to validate what they have learned, or change professions. The sole criterion required for participation is that the person be able to follow a course in French.
Over time, this project will provide opportunities for about 10,000 young people to acquire the skills considered essential and recognized by the labor market. The certificate of specialization awarded at the end of these training courses should also help them find a job more easily. Young people are the future of a country and they can become a real lever for growth and prosperity, provided they are well trained and receive the appropriate guidance.