55 countries, more than one billion people, 2,000 languages… Africa is a diverse continent, full of contrasts. However, above all, it concentrates the largest youth population and this is the reason it is facing an enormous challenge in coming years: to ensure decent jobs for its 200 million young people.

Youth unemployment and the precarious employment conditions young people endure in Africa are becoming a key issue in the political agenda of the region. Generally seen as the result of one of the fastest growing populations, increased youth unemployment has led people consider other problems, such as a lack of strategic planning, the absence of investments in infrastructure and the improvement of industries with the potential to create jobs, or the lack of assessment and development of economic growth policies.

In addition, although young Africans are better educated today than their parents, they are twice as likely to be unemployed as adults, concluded a study by the African Development Bank, which also estimates that 25% of young Africans are still illiterate. Therefore, in spite of an increase in the number of people enrolling in primary schools each year, the lack of skilled labour will continue to be a fundamental problem in the continent if African governments do not undertake to develop an educational strategy linked to the labour market.

Searching for Agreements

African leaders, such as the South African President, Jacob Zuma, or Zizino Yassine, president of the African Diaspora Youth Network in Europe (ADYNE) raise their voices in international forums to seek alliances to help tackle the problem of youth unemployment and to seek employment opportunities for the millions of young migrants within and outside the continent. Similarly, the launching of YEDIA (Youth Employment Decade in Africa), an initiative that seeks to promote economic and social transformation in Africa, opens a new scenario regarding youth employment, where a consensus can be achieved and ambitious goals set out among the countries in the region.

YEDIA is a group of entities coordinated by Ngwa Wilson Forbi, CEO of the Integrated Youth Volunteer Foundation (IYVF) from Cameroon. YEDIA is organised into five Subregional Committees which, in turn, include the national groups. It was established in December last year, at a key moment in the exchange of experiences and knowledge aimed at designing youth integration programmes and involving private businesses. The time has arrived when Africa must stop looking to the past, blaming colonization for its impoverishment and social problems, “because the minds of Africans continue to be colonized, incapable of generating solutions to the lack of hope and the panorama of millions of young people throughout the world also affected by the shadow of unemployment”, says Jacob Zuma.