News / Africa

African Youth Bear Brunt of Global Economic Crisis



Young people in Africa are among the groups hurt most by the current economic downturn.  Global financial problems usually have the greatest effect on the most vulnerable sectors of society and, given their limited access to resources, youth are among the vulnerable.

The problem is magnified by the fact that almost two-thirds of Africa’s population is under 25 years old, according to a report by the Africa Commission -- a body created in 2008 that wrapped up its work in 2009.

The Danish-led commission consisted of heads of state and government, politicians, experts and representatives of international and regional organizations.  It looked at ways that African countries can create decent jobs, foster entrepreneurship and provide greater opportunities for young Africans through education, skills development and access to finance.

As has been the case in other parts of the world, in Africa the global financial crisis threatens the employment prospects of millions of young people trying to enter the job market.  The Africa Commission estimated that figure at nine million each year.

Youth are finding it difficult to find employment and that stops them from “achieving autonomy and being able to be fully included in society,” it says. 

In many African countries, the job market was bad enough before the global recession.  But in the past two years it has become worse.  Many Africans graduate from college with little hope of finding work.  Both the public and private sectors are downsizing their existing workforce.  That means fewer prospects for employment for young people.  

Over 50 percent of businesses in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Katanga province have closed and about 300,000 people have been laid off, according to a report by Jeroen Cuvelier of the Institute for Anthropological Research on Africa.

The same thing has happened in South Africa, with statistics showing that thousands of migrant laborers come from neighboring countries like Lesotho and Swaziland.  They are mainly young men who leave families behind to seek for work and become part of the ongoing cycle of rural-urban migration. 
The money they make from jobs in the city helps them support their families back home.  But with jobs scarce, many return home empty handed.

Government cuts jobs

In most African countries, the biggest employer is the government, now facing stiff budget cuts because of low foreign aid and fewer remittances from the West.  Direct foreign investment, a source of employment in many of these countries, has declined.  So has domestic investment, a victim of high interest rates, depreciation of national currencies and other factors. 
Self Employment
A few young people seek non-traditional options, like starting a business, but it’s difficult for them to get loans because banks usually lend to established business people or require security that the young often don’t have.  The global financial crisis has made it harder for commercial banks to lend to the well-established businesses, much less start-ups.   
Nevertheless, some young people have managed to launch their own businesses.  One of them, Lameck Gadala of Blantyre, Malawi, says it is more viable, given the volatility of the local job market. 
“When you are employed and the company is affected by the global economic crisis, you will not receive any salary increment and, worse still, you will be retrenched,” he says.
Lost potential?

“African governments need to realize the potential of such a large (young) workforce,” says Robert Kayinamura, a young Rwandan lawyer in Washington, DC.  Indeed, African economists agree that as African governments seek economic development, they need to engage young people.

“Youth can be a formidable force to steer and contribute to the development process of any country,” says a report from the United Nations Development Program.
But this is not a new issue, and efforts to address it have been underway for a couple of years.  In fact, a paper presented at the fifth African Development Forum in 2006, entitled Youth and Leadership in Africa, said, “African governments and international partners needed to focus policy initiatives and resources on improving the leadership role of African youth.”
“The success of such efforts, it says, depends on the participation of young people in all aspects of the public policy process.”  Robert Kayinamura agrees, saying “youth must be part of any development agenda and poverty-reduction strategy.”

You May Like

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs