Despite Africa reeling from the impact of the pandemic, the continent – with 70% of the population under age 35 – should leverage on its demographic advantage with rapid technological advancement to create a labour market that would absorb unemployed youth, African Development Bank (ADB) president Dr Akinwumi “Akin” Adesina said yesterday.
Addressing Africa’s first Nobel Prize dialogue hosted by the University of Pretoria on the future of work, Adesina expressed concern that the continent’s youthful population lived beyond the poverty line, which could create a soaring unemployment crisis – with only 100 million of 450 million being employed by 2030 – if the labour market was not transformed in line with the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“We need to look at the labour market to create jobs that the youth need. If you look at between now and 2063, the labour market is going to grow to two billion people, half of which is going to be young people. The concern is that we are not going to create enough jobs for them if we do not change things radically.
“We are in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and we have to understand that times are changing, with artificial intelligence and robotics becoming very important.”
Realising that jobs of the future required “skills of the future”, Adesina said the ADB invested heavily in information communication technology (ICT) infrastructure in Africa.
“To make sure that the future of young people becomes optimistic, the bank has invested heavily in the digital economy, having invested close to $2 billion [about R28 billion] in ICT infrastructure: $70 million in Senegal, $30 million in Cape Verde and in ensuring Africa’s access to broadband by investing in satellites.
“We are also working on ensuring that we have the right skills, with the bank having invested $20 million in the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology – producing 70 masters ICT students, 98% of whom got jobs before they finished college and the rest becoming technical entrepreneurs.
“We are now working on coding because the future is going to be on coding.
“The coding project involves Microsoft and other key players in the industry, with the aim of creating 33 000 young computer coders, a growing area in terms of creating jobs. That should create nine million direct and indirect jobs.”
Africa, he said, lagged far behind when in industrialisation and manufacturing.
“Industrialisation is the fastest way we can create jobs. Africa only accounts for 1% of manufacturing exports in the world.