Back to search

Provide young people with new skills to meet the needs of a 21st century labor market, African Development Bank report urges

aeo 2020

Africa’s economic growth has stabilized at 3.4 percent in 2019 and is expected to pick up to 3.9 percent in 2020 and 4.1 percent in 2021 but to remain below historical highs.

Growth’s fundamentals are also improving, with a gradual shift from private consumption toward investment and exports. For the first time in a decade, investment accounted for more than half the continent’s growth, with private consumption accounting for less than one third.

The 2020 Outlook highlights, however, that growth has been less than inclusive. Only about a third of African countries achieved inclusive growth, reducing both poverty and inequality.

The special theme this year is delivering education and skills for Africa’s workforce of the future. Despite progress in recent decades, Africa still lags behind other developing regions in education and skill development. Policy actions should include measures to improve both the quantity and the quality of education and align education policy with labor market needs.

"Youth must be prepared for the jobs of the future – not the jobs of the past," African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina said on Thursday at the launch of the Bank's flagship African Economic Outlook.2020: Developing Africa’s workforce for the future

"Given the fast pace of change, driven by the 4th industrial revolution – from artificial intelligence to robotics, machine learning, quantum computing – Africa must invest more in re-directing and re-skilling its labor force, and especially the youth, to effectively participate," the Bank president said.

The African Economic Outlook is an annual report that provides updates and forecasts of the continent's economic performance. The theme of the 2020 report is Developing Africa's 'Workforce for the Future.'

  • According to the report two-thirds of Africa's youth are either overeducated or undereducated. The undereducated share (nearly 55 percent) is considerably higher than in other regions (36 percent).
  • With 12 million graduates entering the labor market each year and only 3 million of them getting jobs, youth unemployment is rising annually. Youth unemployment must therefore be given top priority, participants heard.
  • The 2020 African Economic Outlook indicates that skill and education mismatches affect youth labor productivity indirectly through wages, job satisfaction, and job searching. Overeducated African youth earn, on average, 18 percent less than youth with the same level of education who work in jobs that match their education.
  • Also, youth who believe they are overskilled for jobs are 3.4 percent less likely to be satisfied with current jobs, and as a consequence may be less productive.

The report contains several recommendations for reversing negative trends and creating productive and adequate workforces.

These include: designing national strategies for education and skills development that include young people, school dropouts, workers in the informal economy, and in economically and socially disadvantaged groups.