It can hardly be disputed that the importance of youth and the current 'millennial' generation transcends economics, social issues and national prosperity, particularly in Africa. The demand for skilled workers in the knowledge economy has created hindrance for a large portion of the world's youth, especially in developing countries where higher education systems are burdened with the challenge of 'adding value' in terms of enhancing the employability in the new age labour market. A lot of young people around the world are sadly unable to find decent work, despite many of them holding professional qualifications.
Is it worth going to college if you live in Africa?
Worthy of note is that today’s youth find themselves in an era where, for the first time in modern history, the pure economic value of a higher qualification has reached an unprecedented low. Azim Shariff, in his book, observed that adults engaged in self-employment more than youth, especially in developed countries. He further observed that self-employment is much more appreciated among Sub-Saharan Africa than other regions of the world.
Africa’s youth have a distinct energy and value:
Youth are recognised as a major source of human capital and serve as key agents of socio-economic, cultural and political development, not to mention their valued and insatiable appetite for technology and its advancements. The boundless vision, ideologies and energy of young people (less than 35yrs of age, according to our South African classifications) are essential for the continuing development of society. Their training, development, intellectual perspectives and productive abilities are key determinants of the progress and future of the human race.
Why is it so hard for youth to find jobs in Africa?
It’s an uphill battle for millions of young people across the world to find employment and secure long-lasting opportunities because of relevance. Being a lifelong student, as a principle, has never been more important than it is today. We should be strongly encouraging present youth and future generations to accelerate their critical thinking abilities, innovative questioning methods of design, and we should be fostering creativity instead of damaging it through obsolete education systems and endless lists of standardised assessments.
Where can Africa draw inspiration for its education systems?
Consider education in Poland, Finland and Iceland where nature and climate change are critical challenges which children are invited to feel responsible for contributing to the solution of: homework is unheard of and classrooms flex between the indoor and outdoor environments. This approach radically changes the relationship that youth develop with the world around them.
Youth deserve a seat at the decision-making table, as proven by young Greta Thunberg who fearlessly took on the United Nations and began a modern climate revolution among youth, questioning the necessity of adhering to a timetable which ignored the plight of our planet. Robust economic growth will only be achieved if we can extend a hand out to truly empower youth. All this talk of sustainable development goals and impact investing really amount to nothing if we don't invite the key audience to engage with those very voices, on the issues at hand.
What’s the impact of youth unemployment in Africa?
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to calculate the devastating effects of a high unemployment rate. Lower production, thinner distribution of wealth, less tax capital: the reach is deeper than we realise. Is it too emotionless, then, to think of unemployment as an inefficient use of existing resources instead of a reason to throw a pity party?
Opportunities for unemployed youth in Africa:
Considering mass retrenchments underway at companies like Standard Bank, is it too cold and brutal to ask the fundamental question of what could 1000+ former employees do to bring up their own skill levels and address their need for income in a different way to applying at another similar organisation? Then again, it's also worth noting that not everyone who is out of work is considered unemployed. A high net worth individual not dependent on being registered as an employee within an organisation actually doesn't fall under the label of 'unemployed' persons.
Hence, it's usually those with mid-level net worth or below that which are stereotyped into the funnel of crime to literally put food on the table for their families. What does this get us? Neighbourhood deterioration and more pressure on already-burdened police forces which battle enough corruption on a day-to-day basis.
Youth employment solutions you can be part of:
So, what are we trying to tell you? Buy fruit and veg from your local farmer's market; spend money on tickets to watch local theatre productions in between your visits to watch the blockbuster movies; create work and create opportunities for young people where you can because your single idea may easily impact more than 100 lives within just one year of bringing it to life.