How can Africa rise together?

AS YOU read this piece, Nigeria is hosting the 2014 World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa, an event expected to attract several heads of state and government, prominent business personalities and several other movers and shakers of our global village.

AS YOU read this piece, Nigeria is hosting the 2014 World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa, an event expected to attract several heads of state and government, prominent business personalities and several other movers and shakers of our global village.

The event, which is expected to conclude on May 9, is envisaged to focus primarily on forging inclusive growth, and creating jobs in Africa.

 

Africa rising is an increasingly told story where the continent is proclaimed to be open for business across all sectors including agriculture, mining, manufacturing, and services. It is not surprising then that many experts believe that the 21stcentury will not leave Africa trailing behind other continents like has been the status quo time immemorial. 

 

In fact, many believe that with the current trajectory, Africa as a whole has the ability to remain the fastest growing sub-region with above five per cent economic growth rate for the foreseeable future. 

 

This prediction is supported by data from several international institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, with both institutions maintaining that the majority of the fastest growing economies in the world are found in Africa.  

For instance, according to a 2012 report by the World Bank, five out of ten countries with the highest annual average GDP growth were from Africa, and they included Sierra Leone with 18.2 per cent, Niger with 11.2 per cent, Ivory Coast 9.8 per cent, Burkina Faso 9 per cent, while Ethiopia ranked eighth with 8.5 per cent GDP growth. 

However, all is not as it seems. The African economic boom has come at the expense of the poor with economic activity failing to translate into real jobs and instead facilitating economic inequality. 

It is in this regard that the 2014 WEF on Africa is looking to cast light on issues mentioned above to ensure that indeed economic activity translates into real jobs, reduced poverty and lowered inequality. 

For that matter, I would like to hope that if Africa is to rise together, the ongoing forum must take action in at least some of the following ways;

Inclusive growth:

To begin with, with many African countries such as Zimbabwe, Uganda and Kenya discovering natural resources and minerals, it is imperative that these countries begin to link extraction of such resources with policies aimed at redistributing wealth to reduce inequality. 

For example, governments can close inequality gaps by providing more access to education for all children beyond primary school, better access to health care, and access to housing.

By the same token, African governments must look to maximise work offered to local companies so that they can help generate more local jobs through linkages with the local economy. 

By initiating conducive policies to process natural resources and minerals within the local economy, governments can help reduce the amount of financial resources that foreign companies recoup year in year out.

Response to structural unemployment:

Africa, like many other regions, has been faced with severe structural unemployment where unemployment results from a fundamental mismatch between the number of people who want to work and the number of jobs on offer. 

Many economists believe that the unemployed workers may indeed lack the skills needed for such jobs, or they may simply not live in the part of the country where those jobs are available. 

Either way, in the long term, African governments ought to take measures to combat structural unemployment with robust policies to reduce the total level of unemployment on the continent, especially among young people. This may be done by considering the following key policies: 

Improvements in the employability of young people – governments as well as civil society organisations have the ability to greatly contribute to improving the employability of Africans in general and the youth in particular. 

Policies should be able to provide the unemployed with the right skills necessary to find employment and improve the incentives to find work. Similarly, improvements in education and training have the capacity to increase the human capital of these workers, and therefore give them a better chance of taking the new jobs that become available in the economy. 

Employment Subsidies – African Governments should also consider subsidies for private companies that take on new recruits, including interns, fresh graduates and placement candidates. Subsidies can create incentives for companies to increase the size of their workforce while simultaneously contributing to state coffers. 

Employment subsidies should also be made available to overseas firms looking to relocate to Africa – an initiative that has greatly contributed to overseas companies outsourcing their operations to Asia and Latin America.

Twitter: @Jsabex

The writer is a UK Parliamentary Intern and holds a Master of Science in Public Service Policy.

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