Youth Unemployment in Africa


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Laborer working on an irrigation project. Tanzania. Photo: Scott Wallace / World BankExperts on youth and employment from Ghana, Kenya, Mali, and Colombia met on Saturday as the Spring Meetings got underway to discuss the growing problem of youth unemployment in Africa. The high-level panel, chaired by Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank vice president for the Africa Region, agreed that there are no easy solutions to the problem.

“Youth in urban areas are looking for jobs alongside thousands of others from the same schools, while rural youth are flooding into the cities looking for work,” said Sanoussi Toure, the Minister of Finance of Mali. “This is a tragedy. Our policies favor investment in education and training, but this investment has not led to job creation.”

Key points that came out of the meeting included:

  • There are no easy solutions to the problem of youth unemployment. 
  • Youth employment has to be part of the growth strategy of every African country.
  • Employment policies need to favor investment in education and training.


Portrait of woman. Kenya. Photo: © Curt Carnemark / World Bank The panel also included Mauricio Cárdenas, former Colombian Minister of Transport and Economic Planning. Cárdenas talked about the outcomes of two youth programs Colombia put in place during his country's economic crisis in the late 1990s, when external shocks drove unemployment from 10 to 20 percent, and youth unemployment to 30 percent.

It is clear that youth unemployment in Africa needs to be addressed from many entry points, Ezekwesili said in her concluding remarks.

“The profile of unemployed youth has to enter the way we think, just as gender has. Youth need to be effectively targeted in everything we do, so that they will have a stake in the future,” Ezekwesili said.

Story: Youth Unemployment a Major Challenge for African Countries


Nina Vucenik

Communications Officer

Join the Conversation

Antony Simbowo
May 18, 2009

Implementing policies is the best way to help solve this problem. Many a times are policy papers produced and not implemented. There should be a better way in which the governments bring in their citizens to the table in such salient discussions. The World Bank PRSPs were a great point in that direction.

Ask Amy
August 21, 2009

Investment in human capital in Africa is critical for supplying adequately skilled workers. The low level of education of young people is a significant factor in the longer unemployment spells they face. Unemployment fuels conflict and crime, both of which then in turn increase unemployment still further by their effects on economic performance.

Johnny Ecigs
November 03, 2009

Some Key points that were not mentioned in this article. Youth unemployment in Africa also has a geographical dimension: it is generally higher in urban areas than in rural ones. However, the lower youth unemployment figures in rural areas are likely to mask a significant amount of underemployment in low productivity smallholding agriculture. In fact, countries with a large formal agricultural wage sector, such as Kenya and São Tomé and Principe, have high youth unemployment in rural areas.

Several factors account for the high youth unemployment rate in Africa, most notably low economic growth, which is manifested in low economic activity and low investment. Low economic activity entails low overall job creation. Given the sustained population growth rates, labour markets are not able to absorb all the newcomers, resulting in scarcity of jobs,which leads to more selection by education and experience; precisely the assets that young people are struggling to acquire.

Lower enrollment rates, coupled with low completion rates, low quality of education and a failure to orient curricula with the needs of the private sector have contributed to the mismatch of skills of youth labour markets in Africa. Limited formal work experience and a lack of general and job-related skills also put young Africans at the end of the hiring list.The situation further deteriorated in the 1990s when downsizing meant that the public sector ceased absorbing qualified labour. Consequently, a rapidly growing informal sector has become the “sponge” that provides job avenues to all categories of youth labour,including skilled workers.

The health status of young people affects their employment situation. Young people who are HIV-positive eventually become ill with HIV-related diseases, which can increase their absence from work, reduce their productivity and lower their chances of being employed.If left untreated, people are ultimately unable to work.

Unemployment has social as well as economic consequences for young people. Unemployed young people are forced to find alternatives to generate income, including activities in the survival-type informal sector and, in extreme cases, criminal activity. Urban youth unemployment is further exacerbated by rural-urban migration. Rural migrants believe that more jobs and social opportunities are available in urban areas, but once in the cities they find themselves without a job and with limited social networks.

Johnny B
African Social Worker
Owner, American <a rel="" href="">Smoke Juice</a> Company

Mugagga Brian Baya
May 04, 2011

Helping Orphans and Vulnerable Children is very important especially in developing countries in Africa. AFFCAD has noticed that many children in the slums of Bwaise do not have hope for the better future. We hope if we fight vulnerability among these groups the rate of unemployment and spread of HIV/AIDS will decrease in the slums.
AFFCAD is carrying out activities in the slums of Bwaise Kawempe division, Kampala district in Uganda and calls upon all the people with the heart of creating an impact in the lives of vulnerable people to join us in the fight for a better future for these children.

Mugagga Brian Baya
Child Welfare coordinator
Action For Fundamental Change And Development- AFFCAD

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September 14, 2011

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September 25, 2011

I hope that this problem will be fixed as soon as possible. There are many people in Africa who are suffering of hunger. By giving job to the youth would also basically mean that hunger will be reduced and lots of youth and families will be given a chance to live a better tomorrow.

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September 14, 2012

Downtown children's unemployment is usually further exacerbated by rural-urban migration. Non-urban migrants feel that more tasks in addition to interpersonal possibilities are available in towns, but as soon as in the locations many people end up without a job and with constrained social support systems.

July 05, 2012

This day in Africa, it would perhaps be wrong to assume that job creation is not an easy task but, It is only because it is quite easy to get tired doing a job you are not so contented of due to favoritism between big money jobs and small money jobs. Countries have to create enabling laws that would allow easy job creation and international trade which leads to small revenue per head but but big when more people own their business and feel safe (security). I think creativity is lacking because human imagination is confined to often.

chimaobi okolo valentine
January 25, 2013

1. Scholarship to Idea aim at reducing unemployment and raising household and.
individual living standard through entrepreneurship. It is designed to extract ideas
from those who have them (including artisans) for viable small scale industries
which raw material can be 70 percent local sourced and final product in demand for local/foreign consumption. It does this by engaging the minds of residents at different levels in creative reasoning towards improving their standard of living. The conceptualized industry should be sustainable ad-infinitum within its locality.

An enlightenment program is launched, targeting the geographical area of interest. The expression of intent of finance viable concepts for the conceptualist will easily sell. A willingness to consider both oral and written submissions will afford skilled artisans the opportunity to participate. The period of recovery of capital will afford the conceptualist training in the skill of management. Over time, the industry is returned to the conceptualist, giving employment to the locals and a source of revenue, tax or otherwise to the local government where it is based.

2. While these young entrepreneurs produce, there is immense need to develop a market (local and international) that can absorb the products. For if these entrepreneurs produce and don't sell, it makes no difference. Cheap and quality products have be seen to penetrate any market. China's cheap labour and cheap product penetrate the world market. A well developed market that absorbs the products encourage more production and investment and in turn, employment.

3. As urbanization and number of graduates increase without corresponding increase in jobs result in excess demand of labour over its supply. It is not enough just to invest in regular training. There should be increased investment in expertrait training. These expertraits are in high demand abroad. These are not just peope traveling abroad for chances of a better job. An example is the exportation of expertraits from India, China and other countries into Nigeria. These expertraits become employed in other countries and by their performance make ways for other to join them.

Africa might have to "borrow a leaf" from China and India.

January 25, 2013

Interesting read

March 14, 2013

i quiet agree with you

Tom - Founder of E-Lites Electronic Cigarette
April 29, 2013

Youth unemployment is always a worrying situation for any country/continent, especially a 3rd world continent such as Africa. Young employees are the future and with no jobs available to show their talents or gain any experience will only hurt the job and financial economy in the long run.