ILO YOUTH EMPLOYMENT IN AFRICA
Africa has a youthful population made up of enthusiastic and energetic young people who, were sufficient supportive policies and programmes in place, could drive the social and economic prosperity of the continent. Despite decade-long efforts, the challenges of youth development – and hence, employment – are still rife in Africa. There is also a widely-held view that productive employment and decent work for young people cannot be achieved through fragmented and isolated interventions. Rather, there must be sustained, determined, and concerted action by a wide range of actors. Thus, the consensus is that youth employment is a cross-cutting and high-priority issue that needs to be addressed within the framework of an interdisciplinary, multi-sectoral, and multi-stakeholder approach.
One of the mechanisms in place for coordinating efforts to tackle the socioeconomic challenges of Africa is the Regional Coordination Mechanism (RCM). The RCM is a mechanism for enhancing UN system wide coherence, coordination, and cooperation at regional and sub-regional levels; to ‘deliver as one’ in support of the African Union and its NEPAD programme. The RCM is organized into nine thematic clusters which are further divided into sub-clusters. The Employment and Labour Sub-Cluster, co-chaired by the ILO, is one of the sub-clusters of the Social and Human Development cluster. Amongst the outcomes specified in the sub-cluster’s 2010 – 2012 business plan is support and promotion of the employment of young men and women. Several outputs and activities were agreed upon to actualize this outcome. One was to map scattered efforts in order to produce a comprehensive report on Regional bodies, UN agencies, and development partner efforts to promote youth employment in Africa, thereby leading to consolidated youth employment programmes.
Consequently, this report, which aims to map AUC, UN agency, and REC youth employment projects and programmes, assessing each organization’s strategy and implementing modalities, falls within the activities and outputs outlined in the employment and labour sub-cluster business plan.
This report analyses and documents the scale and contexts of programmes promoting decent work for youth in Africa and identifies useful lessons learned for future work. This mapping exercise is timely and relevant for three reasons. First of all, we are at a time when the on-going youth employment crisis, aggravated by the global financial crisis, creates a renewed sense of urgency for action. Across the world, young women and men face real and increasing difficulties finding decent work. Youth aspirations for jobs, freedom, and social justice, their deep alienation from the system that led to the economic and social exclusion of a whole generation of young people, generating extreme inequalities of wealth and income, have triggered the surge in youth-led protests against economic injustice across the world (ILO, 2012).
Secondly, during the UN General Assembly meeting in November 2009, the year 2010 was declared the International Year of Youth. At this meeting, the General Assembly invited all Member States, specialized agencies, funds and programmes of the UN system, to take advantage of the Year of Youth to build on synergies amongst their activities to be carried out at national and international levels. This mapping makes use of this unique opportunity to assess & monitor the impact of the created momentum after setting the year on youth. Thirdly, amongst issues recommended by the 10th RCM for clusters to mainstream into their activities is employment and decent work, particularly for youth. Moreover, such a call for a unified approach comes precisely when the development discourse from African governments gives greater priority to youth challenges.
This mapping report is based on a review of ongoing youth employment interventions. It includes those completed in the two years prior to 2011 and also draws on desk research to make use of current knowledge on youth employment throughout the world. It also presents a concrete analysis and proposes a way forward in response to the challenges identified by the exercise.
As part of the review of the status of youth employment in Africa, the report describes how young people are employed predominantly in the agriculture sector and the informal economy – both of which are characterized by the prevalence of under-employment. Reasons given for these high rates of youth unemployment are that young people tend to seek more employment opportunities in agriculture and the informal sector as there are no opportunities in the formal sector. Slow rates of economic growth and the limited relevance of education and training systems have been identified in many African countries as key issues for explaining youth unemployment. As a result, policies and programmes target these areas when addressing the youth employment situation in the affected countries.
The report acknowledges the increased political commitment of African governments to youth development and hence, employment. This is reﬂected by both the adoption of the African Youth Charter (2006) and the adoption of the Decade Plan of Action for Youth Development and Empowerment at the African Union Summit of Heads of States and Governments in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, in July 2011. The Summit theme was ‘Innovative financing for African Youth Development and Empowerment’. This report also noted
that, given the degree of political commitment, development partners urgently need concerted action to assist African countries live up to their commitments on youth employment and development.
The findings of the report also noted that whilst there is evidence of progress in designing and implementing policies and programmes at various levels, a number of major weaknesses and deficiencies still persist. This is particularly evident with regard to the sub-regional distribution of interventions and the quasi-total absence of post-implementation and mid-term evaluation mechanisms. The report further sets out some of the characteristics of youth employment interventions, pin-pointing the most important issues to be addressed in their implementation and post-implementation phases. It also suggests the way towards more effective implementation and how best to achieve the visions of the continent’s leadership for its youth.
Introduction Africa is the youngest continent with children and youth aged below 30 years constituting 70 percent of the continent’s entire population (ECA, 2009) youth population will reside in Africa. These young and energetic people 1. By 2050 according to predictions, 29 percent of the total world of Africa, however, have the potential, ability, creativity, enthusiasm, and energy for achieving Africa’s renaissance, as articulated by the continental leadership. Investments in their education and transition to employment, health, and social well-being are critical for the continent and Africa’s global repositioning agenda. Youth will also be the driving force behind economic prosperity in future decades, but only if policies and programs are in place to enhance their opportunities and encourage smaller families.
In the absence of proper infrastructure and public commitment, this huge positive potential could turn into a dreadful momentum as population continues to grow. Most importantly, providing basic services such as health and education, and decent jobs for young people, are pivotal for economic growth, regional peace, stability, and security. As the ranks of unemployed youth swell, the problem is becoming increasingly dire.
The past decade saw national, regional, and international efforts spurring a number of interventions aimed at strengthening youth development work. Methods adopted included enhancing strategic alliances and fostering more effective partnerships amongst stakeholders with a genuine interest in achieving real outcomes and benefits for Africa’s youth.
Internationally, the year 2010-1011 was declared the International Year of Youth during the United Nations General Assembly meeting in November 2009. The theme was “Dialogue and mutual understanding”. The Assembly called upon all Member States, specialized agencies, funds, and programmes of the United Nations system to take advantage of the Year and advocate youth development at national, regional, and international levels.
At the regional level, there were also a number of African Union initiatives and commitments. These included the adoption and entry into force of the African Youth Charter during the Summit of Heads of State and Governments of the African Union in Banjul, The Gambia, in July 2006. The Charter serves as a political and legal framework for action that takes stock of the current situation of youth in Africa. It comprehensively takes into account education, employment and issues affecting African youth in the Diaspora, as well as youth participation in regional, sub-regional, and national institutions.
Through the adoption of the Charter, African countries have demonstrated political will to support youth policies and programmes at the highest level.
While each of these steps has brought the continent a step closer to realizing its goal of broader youth participation, the process is ongoing and long-term. It was at the inauguration of the Decade of African Youth that the continental leadership dedicated time and the leadership, and adopted the plan of action necessary to make its goal a reality.
The development of the Plan of Action for the Decade of African Youth Development – dedicated to enhancing the ability of African youth to pursue sustainable livelihoods and contribute to the progress of the African continent – is a critical activity. It involves other related domains and targets related to skills development and capacity building for sustainable livelihoods. It will lead to a long-term and clear programme of action involving the main clusters related to the African youth development agenda, non-formal education, and lifelong learning.
The current challenge is the absence of comprehensive, accessible, and aggregate information relating to youth development and hence, employment projects and programmes. This makes it very difficult for diverse stakeholders to shape the direction of their youth employment policy and programming. By presenting ongoing youth development efforts in general, and employment in particular, in an aggregated manner, it is easier to focus on the impact of youth-effective public awareness, thereby drawing greater attention to African youth issues on the continental agenda. Thus, mapping youth employment programmes lends numerous contributions to advancing youth employment across the continent. It also provides diverse stakeholders with adequate information on the status of youth employment projects and programmes.
1.1 Objectives and Justification
Given the dearth of coordinated, comprehensive, accessible, and disaggregated data on the number and status of project- and programme level interventions relating to youth employment on the continent, diverse stakeholders have found it difficult to identify gaps in interventions and shape their projects and programmes accordingly. Actual information collected on ongoing and recently completed youth employment interventions readily increases programme visibility for effective, evidence-based policy advocacy that would enable youth issues to gain efficient status in national accounts.
Various programmes targeted at youth are offered by governments and also by civil society. However, these programmes are largely uncoordinated due to multiple and weak frameworks supporting youth development. Consequently, it has been difficulty to account for programme inputs, outcomes, and impact. Multiple frameworks lead to a lack of clarity. The varying definitions of youth by different bodies make it difficult to create a coordinated youth response. It is difficult to provide consolidated, comprehensive data for youth
because of the lack of consistency in the ages stipulated by different actors and the different youth development indicators. There is a programmatic gap between implementers and actors, leading to an inaccurate reﬂection of youth program impact. Thus, mapping youth employment programmes would largely contribute to advancing the issue across the continent in the following ways: by providing diverse stakeholders with adequate information on youth employment project and programme status; fostering the use of these tools by organisations to implement a wide range of developmental processes, both at local and regional levels.
The objective of the mapping is:
• To map out and document various, scattered youth employment efforts in order to consolidate and coordinate more effective and rationalized support in this area.
• To assemble a knowledge base to effectively assist African states in their efforts to tackle youth unemployment and under-employment challenges.
• To identify comparative advantages of different UN agencies and development partners with a mandate on youth issues, create a network among them and develop a strategy for more effective partnerships.
This is also expected to equip all organizations to engage the One UN reform process more effectively.
• To set out an initial framework for the crucial elements that constitute best practice in promoting youth employment conditions and outcomes of youth in Africa using a human rights-based approach.
• To identify best practices and challenges in implementing initiatives that promote youth employment and opportunities for revitalization.
1.2 Project Organization
As the Chair of the Employment and Labour Sub-Cluster, ILO was the central coordinating agency for the exercise. ILO took a lead role in establishing and maintaining the partnerships necessary for the exercise, coordinating the various resources required for the exercise. The Sub-Cluster also developed a work plan for the exercise, monitoring its implementation, recruiting and supervising the consultant for the exercise, and facilitating the development of the key outputs.
The African Youth Employment Mapping exercise began in early October 2011 under the leadership of the Deputy Regional Director of the International Labour Organization’s Regional Office for Africa and Co-Chair of the Employment and Labour Sub-Cluster, Mrs. Judaica Army-Lawson. A consultant was then hired to conduct the mapping and analysis whilst administrative support was provided by ILO staff.
This exercise collected data from a literature review, including a review of online resources and project monitoring documents. A self-administered survey questionnaire was disseminated. A list of key respondents was prepared made up of youth focal persons from participating organizations. A full list of key respondents is provided in Annex (1). The self-administered survey questionnaire was sent out to members of the Employment and Labour Sub cluster of the RCM for Africa. Seventy percent of the survey questionnaires sent were completed and suitable for analysis.
The literature review was conducted by reviewing interim progress reports and published documents on youth development and employment in the region. In addition, further literature was obtained on regional programmes during desk analysis.
The Current State of Youth Employment in Africa The problem of youth unemployment and under-employment in Africa poses complex economic, social, and moral policy issues. The problem affects the majority of adults in both rural and urban areas, even if its incidence is higher amongst youth, women, and rural populations. Available statistics suggest that employment growth has not been impressive in Africa.
Active youth, most of whom are employed in the agriculture and informal sectors, make up more than half of the total youth population in Africa. Under-employment is a characteristic shared by both population groups. The rest of the population falls into the self-employment category most of which is, again, in the informal sector. Among the many factors, put simply, unemployment results from a relatively slow growth in demand for labour, combined with a rapidly-growing supply of labour – aggravated by the very high levels of population growth and rural-urban migration. As a result of the high rates of youth unemployment, young people tend to get more employment opportunities in the informal sector. Since the number of new vacancies in the formal sector are not catching up with the number of new young people looking for jobs, young people find the informal sector their next best alternative rather than remaining openly unemployed. Youth participation in the informal sector constitutes, for example, up to 58 percent and 42 percent of total youth employment in Egypt for females and males, respectively. In Uganda, the informal employment rate stood at 95 percent in 2000-2001 and marginally decreased to 93.3 percent, in 2006. The predominance of pervasive informal employment suggests that growth in the economy has not resulted in decent jobs.
Despite declining fertility rates in Africa, the effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and high maternal mortality rates, the African population remains the world’s fastest-growing and most youthful.5 These high population growth rates place an unusually severe burden on the employment sector. In addition, the seasonal character of agriculture, low incomes in the informal sector, and various structural factors exacerbate the situation in the labour market. The result is that the young productive labour force in the region is under-utilised.
Another group amongst the active population in Africa is openly unemployed. In Southern Africa, unemployment rates exceeding 20 per cent are not uncommon. In much of the rest of Africa, too, unemployment rates are relatively high, though perhaps not as high as in some Southern African countries where the formal sector tends to be large. Figure 3.1 above assembles data relating to employment in the informal sector as percentage of total employment. This data permits several observations concerning the status of youth in the labour market. Many labour market surveys do not, however, provide such statistics on the level and severity of the informal sector in developing countries, in Africa in particular.
In general, in Africa; I. Youth unemployment rates are higher in urban areas than in rural areas;
ii. Youth unemployment rates are higher among females than males; and,
iii. The rates of unemployment of youth with the least (or no) education
or with the most education are lower than the rate of unemployment of youth with intermediate levels of education.
There are two factors – the low growth rate of the economy and the limited relevance of the education and training system – that have been identified in many African countries as key issues to explain how youth unemployment is susceptible to policies and programmes addressing youth unemployment. The labour market has been skewed more towards young men than women in Africa. As can be seen from Figure 3.2, the youth unemployment rate is consistently higher for young women throughout many African countries. In addition, labour force participation rates in Africa have also been shown to favour young men, with women representing, on average, less than 40 percent of the labour force. It is also estimated that children between the
ages of 10 and 14 may represent as much as 30 per cent of the continental labour force. This also suggests the presence of child labour. In general, the main factors creating sustained youth unemployment in Africa can be listed as:
• Growing divergence between economic growth and employment generation;
• Poor quality of education, training, and skills development;
• Lack of comprehensive population policies targeted at the root causes of uncontrolled rapid population policies increase and unemployment;
• Low levels of savings and investments that are not conducive to the creation of more jobs;
• Post-independence policies in favour of cheap and unprocessed raw materials exports; and hence,
• Dependence on the agricultural sector.
The Impact of the Global Economic Crisis on Youth Employment in Africa
The global financial crisis that started in 2008 had negative consequences on the economic state of almost all developing countries of the world, including Africa. One of the reasons was Africa’s and the rest of the developing world’s dependence on both the economic and financial assistance of the developed world. Most African states export their commodities to the developed world where ﬂuctuations in demand for those products create serious repercussions on the economies of these low income African countries.
Global economic integration, dubbed as globalization, exacerbated the effects of the financial crisis as it spread to Africa. Opening up markets to the external world also created a space for the crisis to impact upon Africa through the declining demand for exports, increase in unemployment – as a result of the job cuts from declines in export demand – and also because of the reduction in budgetary subsidies to Africa. Studies have documented that, even during normal7 economic scenarios, Africa’s youth face challenges entering into the labour market. Young people face even greater challenges in their transition to the labour market during crisis periods when labour market recovery is even slower than for other markets in an economy. Most African countries suffer adverse impacts since they are increasingly exposed and have relatively limited financial resources and institutional capacity, in addition to a narrow policy space.
In the employment sector, the financial crisis led to a massive spike in unemployment, with rates reaching 20 percent in some regions and sub regions. In South Africa, young persons accounted for about 40 per cent of job losses between December 2008 and December 2010. For 18 to 24 year-olds, employment fell by more than 20 percent between December 2008 and December 2010. This is compared to an overall decline of 6.4 percent. Unemployment rates for those under 25 year-olds is about 50 percent, accounting for 30 percent of total unemployment.
In Zambia, numbers without a job increased from 20.2 percent in 2000 to 21.9 percent in 2004, and 37.6 percent in 2008, whereas the average unemployment rate was 7.6 percent for Sub-Saharan Africa, in 2008.10 Economic Recovery and Youth Employment The first quarter of 2010 witnessed a recovery in global economic growth. However, the rate at which growth was able to create jobs did not match the pace of economic growth. As a result, there was a significant lag in labour market recoveries11 in most parts of the world, and this was a long-drawn-out process in Africa. Achieving more labour-absorbing and inclusive growth requires the removal of the deep-rooted structural and institutional barriers in a typical African economy.
Policy Responses to the Youth Employment Crisis in Africa Over the past decade, much attention and emphasis has been devoted to youth development in general, and youth employment in particular. There is a growing consensus that the failure to mainstream and coordinate youth policies and programmes – and to monitor and evaluate their implementation both within countries and at the continental level – has been a serious constraint to using the youth have capacities to the full.
3.1 The Adoption of the African Youth Charter
African States have made significant progress in recognising the dire challenges and great opportunities that youth present in Africa. As a step forward, national and regional youth networks have been established – including the Pan African Youth Union (PYU). These networks channel youth engagement and promote youth perspectives to be incorporated into national, regional, and continental policies, strategies, and programmes.
African Union Heads of States at their July 2006 Summit, in Banjul, endorsed the African Youth Charter to strengthen, reinforce, and consolidate continental and regional partnerships and relations. The Charter also aimed to prioritize youth development on the African Union’s development agenda. The African Youth Charter is the political and legal document that serves as the strategic framework to propel youth empowerment and development at continental, regional, and national levels12. The Charter entered into force on 8 August 2010. It has been signed by 37 countries and ratified by 21, to date. The Charter is a comprehensive framework addressing young people’s rights and obligations. It is also the social contract between the State and the Youth, in response to priority development and empowerment needs. The adoption and entry into force of the African Youth Charter is therefore a significant milestone for youth development in general, and youth employment in particular. This is because the African countries that ratified, adopted, and signed the Charter must develop and implement comprehensive, integrated, and cross-sectoral Youth Policies, with the active involvement of young people. To attain this end, such policy developments should strengthen and mainstream youth employment – and hence development issues – into broader development goals and priorities.
Box 3.2: The African Youth Charter and A Rights-Based Approach in Youth Employment Interventions:
The African Youth Charter was adopted by the Heads of States and Governments of Africa during the July summit held in Banjul, the Gambia, 2006. African states have the obligation to adopt and align their youth development programmes with
3.2 African Youth Decade Plan of Action, 2009-2018
The Assembly of Heads of States and Governments of the African Union declared 2009 to 2018 as the Decade on Youth Development in Africa during the last Executive Council meeting held in January 2009, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The Decade is an opportunity to advance the youth development agenda in all Member States across the African Union, to ensure effective and more ambitious investments in youth development programmes, and increased support to the development and implementation of national youth policies and programmes.13 After adopting the Decade for Youth Empowerment and Development came the Plan of Action for Youth Empowerment and Development in Africa, adopted by the Conference of Ministers in charge of Youth(COMY III) in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The Plan of Action on the Decade serves as a road map for implementing the African Youth Charter. Partner organizations have also been requested by the African Union Commission to align their programming to the Decade’s Plan of Action, within the framework of the Charter.
3.3 Financing Youth Employment Programmes
The 17th AU Heads of State and Government July 2011 Summit was held in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, on the theme of ‘Accelerating Youth
Empowerment for Sustainable Development’. The Summit deliberated on financing youth development and empowerment issues. It adopted a Declaration in which it was decided that AU Member States should advance
the youth agenda and adopt policies and mechanisms for the creation of safe, decent, and competitive employment opportunities, by accelerating the implementation of the African Youth Decade Plan of Action (2009-2018).
African leaders also committed themselves to ‘reduce youth and women’s unemployment by at least two percent annually over the next five years’, as articulated in the African Youth Decade Plan of Action. Consequently, the
African Union Commission (AUC) was requested to work on developing a comprehensive youth employment pact with international partners. The Summit called upon all partners and stakeholders to align all youth-related
development programs with the African Youth Decade Plan of Action.
Box 3.3: Aligning Youth Employment Interventions with the Plan of Action for the AU Decade of Youth Empowerment and Development, 2009-2018
The African Union Commission declared the years 2008-2019 as the Decade for Youth Development and approved a Plan of Action to implement the priority activities identified during the Decade in harmony with International consensus on the
3.4. The Regional Coordination Mechanism (RCM): towards integrated programming on youth employment in Africa One of the coordination mechanisms in place for tackling the socioeconomic challenges of Africa, including youth employment, is the Regional Coordination Mechanism (RCM). The RCM is a mechanism for enhancing UN system-wide coherence, coordination, and cooperation at regional and sub- regional levels to ‘deliver as one’, in support of the African Union and its NEPAD programme.
Orienting the Regional Coordination Mechanism (RCM), and hence the Employment and Labour Sub Cluster’s work, towards youth employment issues will also serve as a significant step forward in bringing greater integrated and well-coordinated solutions to youth employment challenges in Africa.
Specifically, the 8th Ordinary Session of the AU Labour and Social Affairs Commission stated that “the AUC, in collaboration with international partners such as the OECD, ILO, UNESCO, FAO, UN WOMEN, UNICEF, should facilitate experience sharing on the implementation of the Ouagadougou Declaration and Plan of Action among Member States. This includes developing a booklet on Best Practices on the Implementation of the Ouagadougou Plan of Action for dissemination. The booklet shall highlight practices on Social dialogue, Youth and Women Employment, and Funding of Employment Policies”.
Youth Employment Interventions in Africa
Given the present youth employment challenge in Africa, there is and has been an urgent need for policy-, project-, and programme-level intervention in Africa. In response, the African Union Commission, International development organizations, and Regional Economic Communities, designed and implemented projects and programmes with direct and indirect outcomes on employment, with varying definitions of age groups for young people15. Progress reports on the status of youth employment in Africa show, however, that there is still a need for more interventions to work on various thematic areas, including employment creation, skills development, and employment services. This section will review and map existing youth employment projects and programmes in Africa.
4.1 Geographic Distribution of Interventions One of the many primary goals of conducting the mapping exercise is an analysis of various youth employment interventions throughout Africa. Such a depiction helps to simplify and summarize the overall presentation and facilitates the gap analysis. There are 47 interventions by organizations participating in this mapping in almost all 5416 African countries. Sub-Saharan Africa has more youth employment interventions than the North Africa sub-region, although in terms of the sub-regional analysis within Sub-Saharan Africa, the distribution of interventions varies. Accordingly, the West African sub-region has a higher concentration of youth employment interventions, followed by East Africa. However, the youth employment crisis is concentrated far more in the North and Southern Africa sub-regions, with average rates of youth unemployment at 33 percent and 24 percent, respectively. Therefore, the analysis demonstrates a greater need for project-, programme-, and policy-level interventions in the sub-regions with a high prevalence of crisis. The section below looks at each sub-region’s status with regard to the youth employment challenge and the number of ongoing interventions.
The Southern Africa sub-region shows the worst conditions of youth employment on the continent. The unemployment rate in this sub-region reaches as high as 52.5 for females and 44.5 for males, respectively, in South Africa. Labour force participation rates are 30.2 for females and 35.0 percent for males in Namibia
Employment to population
Source: ILO, Key Indicators of the Labour Market (KILM), 6th edition
On average, youth employment interventions in the Southern African countries are low, despite indicators signalling a severe youth employment crisis in the sub-region. The countries with the worst indicators on record – Namibia and Botswana – have no interventions targeting youth employment. This demonstrates that there needs to be renewed commitment to designing new interventions and expanding on existing ones in this sub-region.