The International Labor Organization (ILO) and the African Union (AU) have teamed up to create a pioneering youth employment strategy called YES-Africa.
The strategy aims to generate decent and productive employment opportunities for African youth and enhance collaboration between government and private sectors.
YES-Africa will serve as a comprehensive guide for investors, African governments, employers, trade unions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), youth, and other stakeholders.
The African Union’s technical committee on youth, culture, and sport recently approved the strategy, which will come into effect in 2024 and continue until 2030.
The primary objective of YES-Africa is to maximize the coordination between governments and private sectors to create sustainable, decent job opportunities for African youth, Jonas Bausch, a youth employment specialist at the ILO Regional Office for Africa, told The Reporter.
“Free movement of people across Africa and intra-Africa trade will also be enablers of the initiative,” Bausch said, adding they expect to finalize the development of the strategy this year and launch it in 2024.
In 2020, the number of African youth not in employment, education, or training (NEET) exceeded one in five. Unemployment rates vary significantly across the continent, ranging from 30 percent in northern Africa to 11 percent in sub-Saharan Africa.
As of 2019, Africa had an estimated 252 million youths, representing 19 percent of the global youth population. According to the United Nations, 15 percent of the world’s population, or 1.21 billion people, fall between the ages of 15 and 24.
The YES-Africa strategy will focus on fostering collaboration between the African private sector and government policies to create decent job opportunities for youth. The continental and national levels will align economic policies, labor market policies, and youth development policies for member countries. Following this, the blueprint for the continental strategy will be presented and implemented by ministries in each country.
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Africa has experienced a surge in youth unemployment, migration to other continents, and instability. To address this issue, individual youth employment programs based on the AU-ILO strategy will be developed in African countries. Each program will have a unique strategy tailored to its specific context, aligning with the goals of Agenda 2063.
“We know one size does not fit all. The economies in Africa are changing a lot. New technologies are emerging. This strategy is developed by the continent for the continent,” Bausch said.
No foreign actors, like the EU or other countries, are involved, the Specialist claims.
“ILO just brings in the skills. This is a joint initiative of the AU and the ILO. The joint task started last year. The process of the strategy was endorsed. So this is an endorsed AU policy developed in cooperation with the ILO,” added Jonas.
Creating job opportunities for young people will largely depend on the industries and economic fields prioritized by individual nations. However, the youth employment strategy will primarily focus on the digital economy, green economic development, agriculture, and other relevant sectors.
The commitment to develop this strategy emerged from the ILO’s Africa Regional Meeting in December 2019, which brought together ILO constituents from member countries across the continent. The Abidjan Declaration, resulting from the meeting, prioritized the creation of decent work and productive employment opportunities for all, with a special emphasis on vulnerable groups such as youth, women, people with disabilities, and those facing discrimination.