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Africa warned: double youth investments or face crisis

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Kathy Gibson at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Durban – Africa is on the brink of a crisis that could be avoided if governments urgently increase and implement investments in young people between 2017 and 2020.

Nachilala Nkombo, interim director of ONE Africa, comments: “The African population is not just growing; it is exploding.

“It is an existential question for Africa: we can wait for a crisis or we can take a proactive role and urge government, enterprise and civil society to take action.

“We cannot carry on with business as usual, or the pockets of unrest across the continent will explode.”

ONE urges African leaders attending the World Economic Forum on Africa to take bold actions to reap the benefits of Africa’s fast-growing population, estimated to almost double by 2050, calling on them to urgently increase and implement investments in young people between 2017 and 2020 to avoid plunging the continent into a crisis.

The African continent stands to add $15-trillion to its economy over the next 30 years, but these gains are largely dependent on governments making investments now to ensure that young people have the skills they need to contribute to the workforce, as well as job opportunities, and health, social and financial support. Turning the increase in Africa’s population into concrete benefits will require smart policies and investments in education, employment and empowerment, particularly for women and young people, who face additional barriers to completing their education, entering and advancing within the workforce, and achieving overall empowerment.

ONE recommends a doubling of development financing from the current $60-billion to $120-billion by 2020 to meet the needs of the continent’s growing population. African governments should be at the forefront of making these investments with development partners backing them.

If African leaders invest with ambition, urgency and efficiency between 2017 and 2020, the continent’s youth can drive a surge in inclusive growth that will benefit the world as a whole. If they do not, the world might witness a colossal socially destabilising effect of nations driven by a massive hopeless and disenfranchised youth population, with severe consequences for continental and global security.

Dr Jennifer Blanke, vice-president of the African Development Bank, says jobs are crucial to Africa’s success, but there needs to be a balance between supply and demand.

“Before you get to job creation, you have to look at the education system.

“We need to protect investments into education and also look at curricula. The private sector perspective needs to be brought into discussions so we know what curricula must look like.”

Dr Achar Leke of McKinsey & Co agrees that skills development is vital. “We believe the skills issue is the biggest challenge on the continent and the world.”

The World Economic Forum’s Vanessa Moungar says there are a wealth of youth programmes on the continent but they are of limited effectiveness without collaboration.

“There are many wonderful programmes, but everyone is working in silos. We need to bring these people together, identify what works and help to scale it up.”