.
T

oday communities, governments, and external actors in Africa—just as their counterparts across the globe—are focused on responding to the immediate, acute needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic shutdown. First order needs for health, food, and safety are righty absorbing almost all available budget and bandwidth through medical supply distribution, cash and in-kind transfers, and other frontline response interventions.

However, in order to mitigate lasting, multi-generational damage to economies and communities across the continent it’s urgent we begin looking ahead to how African economies can rebuild and rebound even as the pandemic waves keep crashing over the coming months or years. There are major risks of backsliding for all the hard-won development gains made across countries and sectors in recent decades. We must make targeted investments supporting those most impacted to mitigate these risks. There is an intervention that can help the biggest vulnerable group in Africa as well as whole economies: Investing in education that prepares youth for the informal sector, which dominates most African economies, and builds the transferable skills (such as grit, problem solving, and creativity) that enable resilience for youth and their countries.

Today marks World Youth Skills Day, and this year’s theme is apt: Skills for Resilient Youth. Reaching youth will be critical for COVID-19 recovery as the demographic likely to be hardest hit by the pandemic-induced recession globally, and especially in Africa where three quarters of the population is under 35. Youth un- and under- employment is already high with 90% of youth expected to work in the informal sector. The pandemic is shrinking already scarce formal employment opportunities. This means supporting avenues for sustainable livelihoods in the informal economy will be central to creating opportunities for youth and ultimately economic rebound. The informal sector, particularly in urban areas, is deeply affected by the new constraints and challenges posed by the coronavirus, such as social distancing restrictions and low access to sanitation structures.

How can governments and other actors in Africa set up youth to thrive in the informal sector? Investing in education that develops transferable skills is arguably the answer in an uncertain and swiftly changing world.

Youth in low-income countries face a wide skills gap; with one projection showing only 8% of them are on track to have higher level skills, compared to 70% in high-income countries. Business leaders globally report concern with the shortage of workers with needed skills, with 87% of African business leaders in one survey struggling to find requisite skills on the hiring market. The World Economic Forum stresses that in Africa the most acute skills gap relates to transferable and “non-cognitive” skills such as communication and problem solving. These skills are becoming more vital in a world of increasing automation and accelerating change that puts “hard” skills such as trade-specific vocational skills at constant risk of obsolescence. These skills that will serve youth no matter their work or environment are a reliable investment. Youth participating in this economy—whether as a ‘boda boda’ driver or a kiosk operator—need most of all a flexible skill set that will allow them to be resilient and thrive in whatever their circumstances or starting place. Governments and others can use education to build the skills proven to strengthen self-employment and earning opportunities; especially in the new labor market created by COVID-19. And skilled, resilient youth who can navigate that market will be a powerful force for the growth of their communities and economies during the pandemic and beyond.

About
Nicole Goldin
:
Dr. Nicole Goldin (twitter @nicolegoldin) is a Board Director with Educate! and Managing Principal, NRG Advisory.
About
Loren Crary
:
Loren Crary (twitter @lorencrary) is Director of Revenue Strategy at Educate!
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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www.diplomaticourier.com

Youth with the Right Skills Will Lead Africa's Recovery

Image by Ben White via Unsplash.

July 15, 2020

T

oday communities, governments, and external actors in Africa—just as their counterparts across the globe—are focused on responding to the immediate, acute needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic shutdown. First order needs for health, food, and safety are righty absorbing almost all available budget and bandwidth through medical supply distribution, cash and in-kind transfers, and other frontline response interventions.

However, in order to mitigate lasting, multi-generational damage to economies and communities across the continent it’s urgent we begin looking ahead to how African economies can rebuild and rebound even as the pandemic waves keep crashing over the coming months or years. There are major risks of backsliding for all the hard-won development gains made across countries and sectors in recent decades. We must make targeted investments supporting those most impacted to mitigate these risks. There is an intervention that can help the biggest vulnerable group in Africa as well as whole economies: Investing in education that prepares youth for the informal sector, which dominates most African economies, and builds the transferable skills (such as grit, problem solving, and creativity) that enable resilience for youth and their countries.

Today marks World Youth Skills Day, and this year’s theme is apt: Skills for Resilient Youth. Reaching youth will be critical for COVID-19 recovery as the demographic likely to be hardest hit by the pandemic-induced recession globally, and especially in Africa where three quarters of the population is under 35. Youth un- and under- employment is already high with 90% of youth expected to work in the informal sector. The pandemic is shrinking already scarce formal employment opportunities. This means supporting avenues for sustainable livelihoods in the informal economy will be central to creating opportunities for youth and ultimately economic rebound. The informal sector, particularly in urban areas, is deeply affected by the new constraints and challenges posed by the coronavirus, such as social distancing restrictions and low access to sanitation structures.

How can governments and other actors in Africa set up youth to thrive in the informal sector? Investing in education that develops transferable skills is arguably the answer in an uncertain and swiftly changing world.

Youth in low-income countries face a wide skills gap; with one projection showing only 8% of them are on track to have higher level skills, compared to 70% in high-income countries. Business leaders globally report concern with the shortage of workers with needed skills, with 87% of African business leaders in one survey struggling to find requisite skills on the hiring market. The World Economic Forum stresses that in Africa the most acute skills gap relates to transferable and “non-cognitive” skills such as communication and problem solving. These skills are becoming more vital in a world of increasing automation and accelerating change that puts “hard” skills such as trade-specific vocational skills at constant risk of obsolescence. These skills that will serve youth no matter their work or environment are a reliable investment. Youth participating in this economy—whether as a ‘boda boda’ driver or a kiosk operator—need most of all a flexible skill set that will allow them to be resilient and thrive in whatever their circumstances or starting place. Governments and others can use education to build the skills proven to strengthen self-employment and earning opportunities; especially in the new labor market created by COVID-19. And skilled, resilient youth who can navigate that market will be a powerful force for the growth of their communities and economies during the pandemic and beyond.

About
Nicole Goldin
:
Dr. Nicole Goldin (twitter @nicolegoldin) is a Board Director with Educate! and Managing Principal, NRG Advisory.
About
Loren Crary
:
Loren Crary (twitter @lorencrary) is Director of Revenue Strategy at Educate!
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.