Africa continental free trade area to offer growth opportunities for African youth

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African young-entrepreneurs photo:courtesy

The African youth and women stand to greatly benefit from the technological boom and educational improvements facilitated by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), directed towards improving the productive sectors of the economy, which will be instrumental in the development of employable skills.

This was revealed during the African Economic Research Consortium’s (AERC) 59th Biannual plenary session of the Biannual Research Workshop held yesterday, with a focus on the importance of job creation and poverty reduction in the continent.

The session themed Youth, Demographic Dividend, Migration, and Economic Opportunities in African Economies was a culmination of research by leading academics who sought to review the opportunities, risks, and challenges that affect the youth and how African economies can harness the trade-offs of demographic dividend and migration for sustainable development.

Speaking at the official launch of the 59th Bi-annual workshop plenary, Prof. Njuguna Ndung’u, the Cabinet Secretary, National Treasury & Economic Planning ministry, acknowledged AERC’s work in complementing governments across the continent to tackle the issues around youth and unemployment.

“About 10-12 million youth in Africa enter the job market, but only a quarter of that population is absorbed into the labour market. The youth is an untapped resource, and we have an opportunity to accelerate the social economic situation in the continent if we harness the skills of this population. We should expose the youth to entrepreneurial and leadership skills at a young age to establish their access to employment,” he said.

The plenary session also noted that fronting human capital development to enhance youth skills to nurture employability and entrepreneurship via widespread Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) provision was also a major key session. Aligning the education curriculum to embody science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) related courses will likely spur innovativeness and ingenuity in young people, thus creating jobs in the digital space, the manufacturing sector, and the ever-growing AI-driven future.

“The population provides great opportunities if Africa can fully capitalize on this increased workforce and consumer base to feed more people with more nutritious and affordable food. Conversely, without proactive measures, they could pose significant challenges including continued food insecurity and unemployment,” said Prof. Dominique Njinkeu, AERC Interim Executive Director.

The session also tackled the issue of migration, which is majorly looked at as a development problem as forced human displacement is normalized.

“We need to make the African migration an opportunity for development in the continent. Africans in diaspora have achieved a lot for the continent across various sectors by contributing to economic development back at home to create the continent that we want. We need to look at them as ambassadors of the continent.” said Professor Kevin Chika Urama, Chief Economist and Vice President of African Development Bank.

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