Africa must focus on its biggest resource - its young people, experts urge

Thursday December 13 2018


While the youth are concerned about unemployment, they are willing to be part of the solution by creating jobs through entrepreneurship. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT 

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Paul Collier, one of the world’s most influential development economists, warns that Africa’s “easy decade” of accelerated economic growth is coming to an end, and only accelerated job creation and integration will ensure sustainable growth and development across the continent.

Dr Collier, a professor of Economics and Public Policy in the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford, was delivering a keynote address at the African Economic Conference 2018 on December 3, hosted by the African Development Bank in Kigali, Rwanda.

He spoke on the first day of the conference at a panel on “Drivers, Opportunities and Lessons for Africa’s integration,” comprising experts as well as policymakers, who provided their reflections and perceptions on regional and continental integration.

“Africa’s easy decade is over; but the past decade of African growth was not sustainable. Now Africa must focus on its big resource — its young people.

No other continent has such a huge influx of young labour. Productive jobs are the priority,” Dr Collier said.

“Young people can’t create priority jobs by themselves. Those jobs have to be created, so the prime task of policymakers in Africa over the next decade is to create productive jobs for young people at a rate that has never happened before.”

Dr Collier added that connectivity between African countries will unlock the potential of many countries, and this connectivity has to be in terms of both physical transport and political ideology.

“Small countries are doomed to poverty unless they have open markets and free societies. So the African Continental Free Trade Area is a very important step forward,” he said.

The African Development Bank has pledged to fully support the Continental Free Trade Area as part of its High 5 strategy to Integrate Africa, and has invested more than $20 million over the past five years to support the institutional and human capacities of the Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat.

Another panellist, Professor Ademola Oyejide, the Emeritus Professor of Economics, University of Ibadan and Chairman of the Centre for Trade and Development Initiatives, said regional integration must drive overall continental integration.