Sub-Saharan Africa has one of the fastest growing youth populations in the world. The absolute number of working-age Africans will grow by 14 million in 2014 alone. Countries in the region are looking to take advantage of this demographic dividend—a situation where there are more working-age members of the population than dependents or non-working-age members of the population. However, this demographic advantage can only be a benefit if working-age people in African countries are gainfully employed.
Brookings Visiting Fellow John W. McArthur delves into this issue and tries to answer the question that impacts in nearly all African countries: How do we increase economic opportunities for our rapidly growing youth population?
Africa is a large and diverse region, necessitating different policies for different economies and contexts. Therefore, John warns against African governments using a one-size-fits-all approach when developing strategies to improve employment opportunities for their respective youth populations. In fact, as John points out, sub-Saharan Africa’s employment challenges can be broken down into typologies by predominately rural, predominately urban, and mixed between rural and urban economies. Thus, the approaches and policies need to create jobs in farm-based economies differ greatly from those that benefit urbanized ones. Additionally, what works for improving economic opportunities for men is not always the best strategy for improving outcomes for women. Therefore, highly-tailored approaches to job creation based on economy type should be the focus of African policymakers trying to improve the employment situation for young people in 2014.
Read Foresight Africa 2014, which details the top priorities for Africa in the coming year, to learn more about Africa’s demographic dividend and youth unemployment challenge, and other critical issues for the region.