Unemployment Crisis Takes Center Stage at 3rd Pan African Youth Conference
The 3rd Pan African Youth Conference on Unity and Development is underway in The Gambia, with over 300 youth leaders from across the continent discussing about issues affecting their lives.
At the heart of the agenda is the issue of youth unemployment which is on the rise in many parts of Africa.
The Executive Director of the Gambia National Youth Council, Lamin Darboe described the rate of youth unemployment in The Gambia as scary and called for a proactive response to fix the problem.
“Unemployment in this country is scary and I always say that the earlier we take due note of this and proactively respond as a government, the better for the country. Unemployment has a multiple negative effects while employment has a multiple positive effects on the person, the society and the economy. Those are there plain for all of us to see.”
On Monday, the African Youth Commission held a side event in partnership with International Organization for Employers, a Geneva-based employer federation to discuss Africa’s youth unemployment.
“At AYC, we are not trying to create any parallel process. We are looking at existing processes- what the gaps are and how we fill those gaps, and ensure they become sustainable to create opportunities for youth to build their confidence and make them employable.”
A Kenyan youth leader, Denis Sankale Keis is representing Youth Senate-Kenya. He acknowledged the high rate of unemployment on the continent. “We are here to discuss unemployment in Africa as a whole and then come up with a resolution that is going to address some the challenges we facing in respect to unemployment. We agree that unemployment is very high in Africa.”
On how Kenya is managing the crisis, Denis said the country’s youth had called a meeting demanding a Youth Fund from the government to curb unemployment.
“This Youth Fund is the money allocated to the development of young people as interest-free loans for business.”
Denis would like to see the creation of innovation hubs in African countries to allow youths to come together and find solutions to not only unemployment, but also environmental issues, food security add irregular migration.
Baboucarr Kebbeh, a Gambian youth activist in charge of Youth Chamber of Commerce (GYCC) said his organization is addressing the root cause of unemployment.
“We think the solution is to empower the young people economically, to encourage them into entrepreneurship so they can come up with innovative ideas, fostering production and services in Africa. That way they can become economically independent and influence policies and decisions. The poor people cannot influence government.”
With Gambia’s unemployment rate standing at 41.5%, Kebbeh attached urgency to remedying the problem especially at the grassroots level. “We can always gather in night halls and conferences to discuss issues but if our decision makers are not actually taken those resolutions forward and take them seriously we will always come back to these kinds of conferences and talking about the same things for decades,” he said.
The Coordinator of NGO Africans Rising, Muhammed Lamin Saidykhan, blamed the “weakness of African leaders for the high youth unemployment rate on the continent.
“The issue of unemployment is affecting us because the raw materials in Africa are all being exported to the West and that is where they are processed. The process of processing these raw materials is creating jobs for those people there.”
The Ugandan-born Acting Chairperson of African Youth Commission, Natalie Mukundane said upon graduation, youths are pumped into the job market that has no capacity to absorb them.
“Even the youth with adequate skills, the market space can’t absorb them and give them enough compensation on the work they do. Now we want to build capacities across the continent because if we build the capacities of these youth, they’ll be able to have creative ideas of how to make money. It doesn’t just have to be employment.”
The African Youth Commission’s economic strategic plan is expected to be launched later this year. According to Natalie, the successful implementation will be a huge achievement.
Anetha Awuku is the Project Manager of International Organization for Employers (IOE), the largest network representing over 140 countries with 50 million companies based in Geneva. She told The Chronicle that her organization was working with organizations to push for effective employment and skills education policies on the continent.
The Pan African Youth Conference is co-organised by The Gambia National Youth Council and the AYC Secretariat in partnership the Gambian Government, UN System in The Gambia, KMC, The Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Child Fund International The Gambia.
The event will end Tuesday.