More than 50 Ghanaians in their 20s gathered in Accra recently to discuss how to improve youth employment in the country.
The World Bank’s chief economist for Africa, Shanta Devarajan, listened in to the World Bank-sponsored brainstorming session from Washington.
Devarajan said some of the most important input he took away from the session was that Ghana’s youth see their future jobs coming from the private sector rather than the public arena.
This is a slight shift from past generations, he said, who tended to look more toward governments to reduce unemployment by hiring more workers directly.
But there is still a role for the government in facilitating private sector job growth, Devarajan added, “in making it easier for the private sector to create jobs.”
“Most of that involves things like providing infrastructure, providing a regulator environment that makes it conducive to start firms and to set up factories.”
According to Devarajan, about 90 percent of Ghana’s jobs are in the informal sector. These businesses are often family-related, such as a store that someone’s parents own or small agricultural operations. Earnings from these jobs are often low and unstable.
Devarajan said during the brainstorming session, which mostly sought input from young university graduates, the participants said they want to find jobs in the formal sector that can provide more stability. And though Devarajan stressed it is hard to predict economic events, he suggested that light manufacturing, such as textiles, garments and small electronics, might offer these types of jobs in the near future.
Maclean Arthur, who participated in the event, wrote on a blog targeted at Ghanaian youth, mefirighana.com, that he was skeptical at first, but afterward left the discussion with a “big smile” across his face.
“The program brought together a collection of articulate and ambitious youths from diverse backgrounds,” he wrote in his post. “They bounced ideas off each other and at the end, they all left the conference room motivated.”
Brainstorming sessions are also being held in other countries such as Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of a larger program coordinated by the World Bank’s Chief Economist office. The program aims to gather input from youth all over Africa for a report on youth employment on the continent, scheduled to be released later this year.