Senior policy makers and advisors from across Africa congregated in Kigali, Rwanda on March 21–22, 2013 to deliberate on one of the continent’s most pressing issues. The two days of passionate discussions during the fifteenth Senior Policy Seminar (SPS XV) convened by the Nairobi-based African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) focused on Youth and Unemployment in Africa.
The region-wide seminar brought together 113 participants, primarily African policy-makers and advisors drawn from the highest levels of government representing 24 countries on the continent. The seminar was officially opened by Hon. Amb. Claver Gatete, Minister for Finance, Rwanda on behalf of the Right Honourable Prime Minister of Rwanda, Dr. Pierre Damien Habumuremyi. The cluster of senior government officials included 12 full ministers, eight deputy ministers, two governors and four deputy governors of central banks, four permanent secretaries, and five special advisors, as well as parliamentarians. Other participants included senior scholars and directors of various ministries and research institutes.
The seminar brought together a significant body of information to illuminate the impact of youth and unemployment in Africa and related policy matters. As it was anticipated that through AERC’s broad research and policy network, the research papers and dissemination efforts brought these issues to the fore so as to raise the policy makers’ awareness and enable them take a proactive stance on behalf of their countries.
Youth and Unemployment in Africa
Africa has the fastest-growing and most youthful population in the world. Over 20 percent of Africa’s population is between the ages of 15 to 24 and, since over 40 percent of Africa’s population is under 15 years of age, that number is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. According to the International Labour Office, youth make up as much as 36 percent of the total working-age population and three in five of Africa’s unemployed are youth.
Africa in particular faces demographic challenges as its population of young people increases and access to secure jobs continues to be problematic. Beyond economic costs, high rates of youth unemployment and underemployment have social ramifications. Some youth with few job prospects and little hope of future advancement may see little alternative to criminal activities or joining armed conflicts. Thus, unemployed and underemployed youth are more exposed to conflicts and illegal activities—many of them fall prey to armed and rebel groups and are readily available for anti-social criminal activities that undermine the stability of society. And an unstable society increases the risk of the market. This scares investors.
The combination of population growth associated with high fertility rates and the slow pace of job creation in Africa presents challenges to its youth. Despite annual economic growth rates of 6 percent or more in sub-Saharan Africa in recent years, there has not been a sufficient increase in stable employment opportunities for young people. With current demographic trends, the pressure to create new jobs will only increase over the coming decades.
In response to this challenge, regional and continental governments have met several times to discuss solutions to youth unemployment in Africa. It is in this light that the African Economic Research Consortium’s (AERC) Senior Policy Seminar (XV) selected the theme Youth and Unemployment in Africa. The two-day seminar that opened on Thursday 21st March 2013 at 9am was heldat the Serena Hotel in Kigali, Rwanda.
Accomplished researchers and respected world scholars shared their ideas with distinguished senior policy makers in the African continent in various sessions. The first session on Thursday March 21st saw Roger Tsofack, University of Yaounde II, Cameroon; kick off the proceedings with a critical look at Unemployment and Underemployment. The second session featured Blessings Chesinga, University of Malawi, who ratcheted up the discussion a notch higher with a paper on The Political Economy of Youth Unemployment in Sub-Saharan Africa. Miriam Altman, Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa, then presented the third paper on Education and Youth Employment in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Abebe Shimeles, of the African Development Bank, started the second day by presenting the fourth paper on Promoting Youth Employment in Africa and the last paper on Youth Employment in Sub-Saharan Africa: Way forward on Policies and Evidence based on Programmes was presented by Hiroyuki Hino, Economic Advisor, Prime Minister’s Office in Kenya.
The lead discussants for these five papers were Germano Mwabu – University of Nairobi, Kenya, Francis Mbaye – Office of the Prime Minister, Cameroon, Lucious Kanyumbe – Former Minister for Labour, Malawi, Yaw Ansu – Chief Economist, African Centre for Economic Transformation (ACET), Ghana, and Cyrill Chami – Former Minister for Trade, Tanzania, respectively. There were floor discussions by participants after each presentation. These included senior African policy makers, eminent economists from Africa, senior officials of the development partners and researchers from Africa and beyond. Later, there was a panel discussion on the theme of the seminar. All these proceedings were streamed live.
The AERC also hosted another workshop on Capital Flight and Tax Havens on March 23–24, 2013, at the same venue. This meeting saw leading experts in this area undertake cutting-edge analysis on the various aspects of the problems of capital flight and safe havens. The papers that were presented explored both economic and institutional dimensions of capital flight and safe havens with a view to shedding light on practical solutions to stem capital flight, reduce tax evasion, and accelerate the repatriation of stolen assets.
The AERC Secretariat in collaboration with the National Bank of Rwanda made significant efforts to ensure that the seminar drew extensive media coverage, with the result that leading local newspapers, as well as television and FM radio stations allocated considerable space and time to enlighten Rwandese on the event. Rwanda Television (RTV), Reuters, The New Times, Rwanda Dispatch, Oasis Gazette, Ingenzi, Sawubona Magazine, Ubucuruzi, Radio 10, Ishingine Radio, and Flash FM, all had articles and bulletins about the seminar. The RTV (national television station), with a massive reach also had slots in between their programmes for the seminar. The print media carried interviews by the AERC executive director, William Lyakurwa, and the Governor, National Bank of Rwanda, John Rwangomba as well as with other seminar participants.
For the full information on the event click here