The Elasticity of Hope: social and economic constraints faced by the current African youth.

Published on 19/11/2013 | Author: Jean-Claude FOUMENA

Whereas Africa knows an historic growth, unemployment and poverty remain major problems. In this capitalist world, of which youth is submissive to those financial mechanisms that only a small minority masters, can the youth hope for a better future? How can their governments contribute positively to their desire of development? How can they interfere on their elasticity of hope?

In several Sub-Saharan African countries, with a sustained economic growth coupled with a relatively stable inflation rate in the past decade, many sanguine macroeconomics analysts forecast a brighter future to a region that is mostly known for its several food crises and the precarious political and social atmosphere that reigns within its states.

 

Indeed, in the past decade, many Sub-Saharan African countries have increased significantly, their gross domestic product (GDP), the national output of goods and services of a country during a given year. According to the current World Economic Outlook Database produced by the International Monetary Fund, the Sub-Saharan region has increased its GDP from 431 Billions of American dollars in 2003 to 1315 Billion in 2013 which represents a 300% increase in the span of a decade. It is remarkable that the Sub-Saharan Africa region tripled its production despite the tumultuous global economic crisis that has affected many of the advanced economies, notably the United States and the European Union since 2008.

 

Nonetheless, the direct impacts of the economic growth are not noticeable yet at the baseline level of those societies as many of those countries still face high unemployment rates and a considerable fraction of the population is living under the poverty line.

 

Unemployment in Sub-Saharan African countries mostly affects the African youth that is still looking to reap the benefits of increased trade between its respective countries and foreign countries, most notably China. According to the World Bank Africa Development Indicators report, the African youth represents 48% of the labor force but faces a staggering high unemployment rate which hovers around 20-30%. It is the case with South Africa that has experienced a high unemployment rate despite being the largest African economy based on a recent African Development Bank economic report.

 

The dearth of job creation in the private sector, as well as suboptimal foreign investment conditions, can be pointed as one of the main reasons of unemployment for young African professionals. Additionally, Sub-Saharan African countries have continued to experience a high population growth rate which caused a high increase in youth population. To resolve the unemployment quandary that many young Africans face, many governments in the region should implement economic policies that will boost employment, notably policies that provide incentives for creation of jobs in the private sector. This can be done through the enhancement of a more stable social and economic atmosphere within those countries, a situation that will increase the investor confidence and boost foreign direct investment in those countries.

 

Another alternative that many governments can implement is to boost youth entrepreneurship by creating or reinforcing social, educational and economic programs that increase labor and capital productivity among young people. Such programs exist in many countries and need to be implemented in a bigger scale. For instance, the Cameroonian government, through the ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development(MINADER) has launched recently a program called Support Program for Young Farmers or Programme d'Appui a l'Installation des Jeunes Agriculteurs(PIAJA) which funded 162 young agricultural farmers in 2012 and has allowed 1800 young farmers to start their agricultural venture since 2006.

 

Many Sub-Saharan African governments could benefit greatly from harnessing the energy, enthusiasm and motivation that their youth bring in the labor market. By doing so, they will certainly sustain the economic growth that has started a decade ago and further improve the social and economic outlook of their societies. In other words, they will prove the doubters wrong that Africa is indeed a land of opportunity and has a brighter future.

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