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Turbocharging youth employment in Africa: a new approach (WP1658)


There is arguably no harder or more urgent global challenge in our world today than tackling youth unemployment. Current estimates are that governments need to create over a billion jobs in the next 12 years: that’s a million a month in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa alone. And yet there seems little consensus on how that will happen, even though governments have signed up to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the goal of full employment for all young women and men by 2030.

How to boost employment has been a central focus of the ‘Wilton Park Youth Dialogues: powering the future’, a series of dialogues held over the past two years exploring how best to harness the energy and imagination of young people, whilst ensuring that they are equipped with the education, skills and tools that will allow them to become resilient and thriving citizens in a challenging world.

Dialogues in South Africa and in Jordan in 2018 suggest that employment is a top priority for young people, affecting their sense of identity, their role in society, as well as being crucial for economic growth, prosperity and the prospects for peace. However, it’s clear that no single actor can solve the youth employment crisis. Working together to address this issue has never been more critical, both as a challenge and as an opportunity to harness the potential of the current youth demographic to deliver lasting positive change. The UK Prime Minister recently announced that job creation will be at the ‘very heart’ of the UK’s relationship with Africa, putting into sharp focus the question of where responsibility lies to ensure the future of work provides a decent living, is productive enough to contribute to sustainable growth and is environmentally friendly.

This dialogue looked at how to build a new strategy, supported by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Denmark, for turbocharging youth employment in Africa. It looked at ways to work together and use evidence to economically empower young people, identifying what works, what doesn’t work, global best practice and new ideas to advise government leaders how to create jobs at scale.

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