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UN Chief joins world leaders in calling for greater investment in Africa’s young people

UN Chief joins world leaders in calling for greater investment in Africa’s young people
Photo credit: GOV.UK

26 Sep 2018

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday joined world leaders in calling for greater investment in jobs for young people in Africa, calling them the continent’s “greatest asset”. 

“Investment is crucial to harness Africa’s youth dividend,” Mr. Guterres said at an event organized by the United Kingdom, Canada, Ghana and Rwanda on the margins of the annual high-level General Assembly in New York.

He cited the need for investments in health and education, as well as in science, technology and industrialization.

Today, one-third of African youth are unemployed; another third are vulnerably employed or in low-value jobs in the informal sector. The Secretary-General said this reinforces poverty and inequality.

Young African women are even worse off, he pointed out, noting that it is estimated that gender gaps in the labour force cost Africa $105 billion in 2014 alone.

At a time when the rest of the world will be ageing, Africa’s youth – with their energy, innovation, ideas and solutions – are an asset for the global labour force, Mr. Guterres emphasized.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said that Africa “stands on the cusp of playing a transformative role in the global economy,” but the continent’s potential will only be realized with greater investment in the next generation.

She noted that to keep pace with its growing population, Africa will need to create 18 million new jobs every year between now and 2035. And creating those jobs is not just important for Africa’s future.

“In our interconnected world, where new jobs in Africa drive new markets, new trade and investment opportunities and greater global stability, these new jobs are important for everyone’s future.”

“Africa’s youth bulge does not need to be a problem for our continent nor for our neighbours. On the contrary, our young people are an asset and a driver of growth and innovation,” stated Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

“If we plan strategically and work together, we can instil a sense of hope in Africa’s youth about the vast opportunities to be found right at home.”

Around 60 per cent of Ghana’s population of 30 million people is under the age of 25, noted its President, Nana Akufo-Addo, adding that for most of the last decade, the growth of the country’s economy has barely kept pace with population growth.

“Basically, we have an economy that is not generating jobs and not expanding,” said the President. “Youth unemployment is the greatest threat to the stability of our country and to our democracy. So finding solutions as to how to grow the Ghanaian economy so that it can produce jobs – that is the biggest single issue confronting our country.”

Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, added that educating young people and giving them opportunities in Africa is something that matters not just to the future of Africa but to the future of the world.

“The cost of missing out on our responsibility towards that will be astronomical if we do not give young people the tools, not just to shape their own future but to shape the future of their communities, their continent and of course the entire world.”

‘A Call to Invest’: Investing in Jobs for Young People in Africa

Speech delivered by Prime Minister Theresa May

I am delighted to be here, alongside President Kagame, President Akufo-Addo and Prime Minister Trudeau, to open this meeting.

Today we make a call to invest in Africa.

Africa stands on the cusp of playing a transformative role in the global economy. A more prosperous, growing and trading Africa is in all of our interests. But its incredible potential will only be realised through a concerted partnership between governments, global institutions and business.

That’s why we are bringing together today, political leaders, business leaders and the African leaders of tomorrow. For together we can work in partnership to unleash the transformative power of trade and investment to work across the continent of Africa.

Last month, I made my first official visit to Africa – I met leaders, entrepreneurs and young people who are building an exciting future for their countries and their continent.

I saw a continent full of potential. One with a young population that is eager to embrace the opportunities of the 21st century – and ready to play its part in tackling the challenges we all face.

I was delighted when I was there to meet a young fashion designer in Nigeria, and a young jewellery designer in Kenya - examples of the next generation.

I am delighted that we are also joined by representatives of that next generation today.

But Africa’s potential will only be realised if we invest in the next generation.

Just to keep pace with its growing population, Africa will need to create 18 million new jobs every year between now and 2035.

And creating those jobs is not just important for Africa’s future. In our interconnected world, where new jobs in Africa drive new markets, new trade and investment opportunities, and greater global stability, these new jobs are important for everyone’s future.

That is why high-quality investment and job creation forms the centrepiece of the UK’s new partnership with Africa.

It is why I want the UK to be the G7’s number 1 investor in Africa by 2022, with our companies investing billions into African economies.

It is why the UK is ensuring that the 0.7% of gross national income we spend on development will do more to support investment and job creation in Africa and in developing economies across the world.

While in South Africa, I announced plans for £4 billion of new UK government investment in African economies that will pave the way for at least another £4 billion of private sector financing.

And next year the UK will host an Africa investment summit in the UK – bringing African leaders together with private and institutional businesses and investors.

This partnership working is vital to delivering the high-quality investment we want to see.

Today, I am delighted to welcome the Sustainable Development Capital Initiative which, in partnership with UK Government, will develop the City of London’s role in raising the capital needed to meet the sustainable development goals.

I am also pleased that the UK played a role in the International Finance Corporation doubling the investment it supports in Sub-Saharan Africa, to $10-12 billion a year by 2030.

These and wider shifts in the multilateral system are encouraging foreign investment in African countries by improving business environments, and addressing market barriers, such as regulation and risk mitigation.

But like everyone here today, I want us to go further still.

So together today, we are issuing a ‘Call to Invest’ in Africa. A challenge to governments, businesses, investors and organisations the world over, to redouble our efforts to address the youth jobs challenge, and to bring fresh ideas and practical commitments to the table.

When Africa succeeds, the world succeeds.

So let us together invest in Africa and – in doing so – invest in all our futures.

Remarks by the UN Secretary-General

Let me thank the United Kingdom, Canada, Ghana and Rwanda for bringing us together and for highlighting the vast opportunities for investing in jobs for young people in Africa.

Youth unemployment is first and foremost a tragedy for young people’s hope for the future.

But it can also undermine development and generate frustration and alienation that, in turn, can be a catalyst for social unrest, crime and unsafe migration – and a threat to global peace and security.

It would be wrong to draw a straight line between youth unemployment and a propensity for violence. Yet it is unfortunately all too easy for frustration and anger to be exploited by extremists of all kinds.

Africa has the fastest growing youth population in the world.

They are the continent’s greatest asset – a vast source of energy, innovation, ideas and solutions.

Indeed, at a time when the rest of the world will be ageing, Africa’s youth are also an asset for the global labour force.

But today, one third of African youth are unemployed and discouraged; another third are vulnerably employed or in low-value jobs in the informal sector. This reinforces poverty and inequality.

Young African women are even worse off. It is estimated that gender gaps in the labour force cost Africa US$105 billion in 2014 alone.

Investment is crucial to harness Africa’s youth dividend.

Investments in health and education, and in science, technology and industrialization.

And not just basic education – but in skills that match the needs of present but above all of future labour markets in a world that is changing so quickly.

The African Continental Free Trade Area is an important step in the right direction in creating job opportunities.

Earlier this week, the United Nations launched the Youth2030 strategy and the Generation Unlimited initiative – two new efforts to empower people, including through learning and employment, especially for girls.

We want to make sure that all young people, in and beyond Africa, have decent work and can fulfil their potential.

Thank you very much.