African leaders should demonstrate the highest level of political will to ensure that the issue of unemployment among the youth is addressed.
The call was made Tuesday at the seventh annual security symposium at Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) Command and Staff College in Musanze District.
The symposium discussed various topics that included global power dynamics, the need to grow Africa’s defence capabilities and youth unemployment on the continent.
Other topics include strategies to deal with cyber terrorism, enhancing continental self-reliance through intra-continental trade and the importance of good governance in achieving socio-economic transformation.
The panel that tackled youth unemployment was held under the theme: “Youth Bulge and Unemployment in Africa: a Threat to Security and Development”.
The panel was made up of Amb. Abdoulaye Diop, Chief of Staff of the Chairperson, African Union Commission; Rosemary Mbabazi, the Minister for the Youth and Usta Kaitesi, chief executive (Ag), Rwanda Governance Board.
According to experts, the African continent has a big number of youth and that can be a threat to security and development if they are not equipped with quality education that would enable them to create jobs.
Mbabazi said that the number of African youth continues to grow and many of them unemployed, due to limited resources calling for the need for political will to look for alternative ways to address unemployment issue.
Quoting SDG figures of 2017, the minister said the average age in Africa is 19 years and African population is expected to be 28 billion by 2050.
They will constitute the 50 per cent of the population of the entire world.
“Unemployment is a global issue, it is not an African issue, it is not a Rwandan issue alone, this is because the population is growing and the resources are limited, so that means that we have to find other mechanisms of ensuring that we have opportunities out of this scarcity of resources,” she said.
She said that African youth are more educated today than ever before, which means they have more opportunities than previous generations but need support to be competent enough.
The minister, however, said that most still have a challenge of access to loans from banks due to lack of collateral.
Mbabazi noted that the youth have a skills gap and countries should work on how to equip them with the necessary skills.
“The youth are like blank papers; what are you going to write on them? If you want them to create jobs, are they facilitated? The youth on the continent do not have collateral to get loans in banks and their dreams are not being realised but rather end up drowning in the seas looking for greener pastures,” she added.
According to Diop, for the youth, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, unemployment will continue to get even higher and there is need for addressing the skills gap between what is taught in school and the needs of the labour market.
“Even if you have strong economic growth, even if it is double digits but it does not create jobs, you are not going to break the link between growth and poverty,” he said.
“As leaders, we lack a vision for development of our continent. We have to have clear vision. We have done nothing in the past, that’s why we are investing much in peacekeeping, and buying arms for our armies. We always act late,” he added.
“Nobody can protect you from your own people. We have to do our best so that people in uniform don’t have to come in. African leaders must invest in education and health,” he noted.
According to RGB’s Kaitesi, the youth need to be supported and education should be adjusted to reflect the current realities.
“The youth have strength but their skills must be re-fixed. If our education systems are not reviewed, the youth will be the victims,” she said.
They need to be given the opportunity to feel that they are participants in development, and if resources are not fairly distributed, the youth will find alternatives,” said Kaitesi.