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Accelerating Africa’s Industrialization: A Panacea for Youth Unemployment

Industrialization. What does it mean? For years we have heard that industrialization is what Africa needs to develop. It is the path to prosperity for a continent that has been long stuck in the doldrums of “development”.

So, what is industrialization? Simply, it is “sustained economic development based on factory production, division of labor, concentration of industries and population in certain geographical areas, and urbanization”[1] according to Business Dictionary. It is the process by which an economy moves away from small-scale production to large-scale production with the help of machineries supported by technology and science. So why has it been difficult for African countries to pursue and achieve industrialization after more than five decades of independence? There are several factors, however this article will focus on one area, youth.

For industrial revolution to happen in any country, the skills and manpower to drive it must be present. Being the most youthful population in the world, it is expected that Africa would have the man power to support a kind of revolution that will change its fortunes. Sadly, the exact opposite is the picture of most if not all the 54 countries on the continent.

Gainful employment is a scare commodity for an average African youth to possess. When they find jobs, they are paid less than $2 a day. Although youth unemployment in Africa stands at 12%, it has the highest rate of working poor in the world.[2] And therein lies the problem, jobs are not being created and those available barely add value to living standards. The issue has been debated, politicized and recycled for decades on the continent. Ironically, those often not at the table for these conversations are those it affects the most, the youth.

Considering this, WACSI hosted a civil society-led panel discussion during the recently concluded African Development Bank and Civil Society forum (AfDB-CSO) held in Abidjan from 7-9 May 2018 under the theme: “Accelerating Africa’s Industrialization: A Panacea for Youth Unemployment”. At this forum, WACSI brought together the civil society practitioners, youth leaders (including Mandela Washington/YALI Fellows), staff of AfDB, policymakers and development partners to reflect on the disastrous effect of growing youth unemployment on the continent and how accelerated industrialization can alleviate this menace. It also explored the different roles that youth can play in the industrialization processes particularly when empowered with requisite skills, knowledge, tools and enabling environment to thrive.

At the end of the forum, delegates came up with key recommendations targeted at policy makers, including African Development Bank, and civil society among others. These recommendations include:

- Defining the Concept and Scope of Industrialisation: to clearly define industrialisation within the context of the African Continent and its far-reaching implication on other growth sectors.

- Mainstreaming Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) into Educational Curriculum and programs: to incorporate STEM training into our educational institutions at early stages of education to shape the mindset and skills set of African youths.

- Institutionalising Entrepreneurship Education: to incorporate the concept and practice of entrepreneurship in the curriculum of basic, secondary and higher institutions of education and learning to guide African youths who may be interested in entrepreneurship. Measures must also be put in place to support and encourage start-up incubators.

- Strengthening systems that Promote CSOs Role in Capacity Building, Education and Governance: strengthen and support CSOs in their interventions to provide efficient capacity building, advocacy, and training initiatives to the communities they serve.

- Promoting Inclusive Youth and Minority Groups in Governance: CSOs must be supported to execute programs that promote the needs of youth and minority groups in governance processes to contribute towards accountable, inclusive and responsive governments.

- Strengthening Anti-Corruption and Transparency Institutions across countries: provide both technical and where possible operation support to government programmes on anti-corruption and illicit financial flows.

- Promoting Climate & Environment Justice and Food Security Initiatives: collaborate with civil society organisations to scale-up its activities aimed at addressing climate change, environmental conservation, agriculture and food security challenges within the continent.

- Establishing Strong Financing Models for Start-ups: The Bank should work with credible financial institutions within countries to give loans (interest free or with reasonable interest rates) to start-up entrepreneurs and SMEs, review their business and financing models and provide context-specific financial literacy training to help them expand.

- Prioritising Agriculture and Food Security Issues: The Bank should work with CSOs to prioritise and attract young people, especially graduates into the agriculture sector.

- Lobbying Governments to Enact Laws on Intellectual Property, its Education and Registration: The Bank should work with national governments to ensure the enactment of intellectual property rights laws that would protect and safeguard research products and technological and scientific innovations that Africans.

- Improving the Agriculture Value Chain System within Countries: The Bank should support CSOs to influence governments to improve the agriculture value chain system to enable excluded youths and marginalised minorities to take advantage of the opportunities to compete and thrive agriculture.

- Encouraging Domestic Savings Culture: to inculcate savings culture across all echelons of African societies.

- Promotion of Farming Co-operatives: promote agricultural co-operatives to expand the growth sectors in the agriculture value chain.

WACSI is committed to strengthen civil society actors, organizations and activist to ensure these recommendations are realized and the forge of industrialization in Africa is fuelled by its youth.

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Resource Centre

The Institute has a resource centre that is open to civil society actors in the region. It serves as a library of civil society documents, research reports and edited volumes that are accessible to both individuals and organisations. The Institute has partnered the Foundation Centre to provide online learning resources and a database of grant giving institutions in the United States of America.

For more info please contact us: resourcecentre@wacsi.org.

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