Africa’s Contemporary Development needs Data, not Money
By admin September 12, 2016

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While the billions of dollars in aid delivered to the African continent effectively help governments solve their social and economic challenges, it cannot be a definitive solution to widespread African poverty. 

As a recent Project Syndicate article shows, job creation is the key element that will empower the large pool of African youth population, which is expected to double by 2050, reaching an estimated number of 830 million. To be able to absorb this workforce, African policymakers should transform their States into “knowledge economies”, fostering flexible environments able to adapt to the constantly evolving international markets. According to the World Bank, the four pillars over which these systems rest are: efficient education, academic excellence, an expanding information and communications technology sector and reliable institutions. That being said, the problem remains on how to build these societies, and, most importantly, how to include the young African job-seekers in the process.

Lack of relevant domestic data is one of the greatest stumbling blocks hindering African development strategies, as the Mo Ibrahim Foundation reports, only “a third of all Africans live in a country where a census has been conducted since 2010”. Consequently, policymakers face serious difficulties in their analysis of unemployment rates since they do not have enough information on the conditions of the people they are dealing with. The inability of governments in responding to the challenges afflicting their labor markets increases the reliance of young Africans on the informal economy, where they enter into ad hoc arrangements that lie beyond the purview of government regulation and taxation.

Therefore, bringing the picture into sharper focus through improved data collection is certainly a priority for regional and international policymakers, which should not only focus on strengthening standard labor-tracking methods used in Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, but should also understand how the informal economy works and how it can be institutionalized and improved with the help of private-sector actors. Opportunities for growth are clear, especially in the agricultural sector, where plenty of untapped opportunities are waiting to be employed. For instance, the Alliance for A Green Revolution in Africa highlighted in a report that the African continent boasts 60 percent of world’s uncultivated land, while it notably spends USD $60 billion per year on food imports.

A Mckinsey report suggests that young people could play a central role in that effort, and different initiatives put in place to eliminate barriers to entry-level employment for the youth. For instance, the Vulindlel’eJozi program of the City of Johannesburg, aims to break down barriers to formal employment by teaching young people skills such as digital literacy.

Moreover, initiatives aimed at enhancing data collection and analysis are already in place. The Africa programme on Accelerated Improvement of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics, launched in 2011, is beginning to lay the necessary groundwork for programs based on hard data on African populations.

Africa has addressed successfully complex challenges like the HIV/AIDS epidemic trough cooperation amongst States, NGOs, and local communities in data collection and analysis. Now, it’s time to do the same to address the challenge of job shortage.

For more information: 

Building Africa’s Knowledge Economy 

Strength in Numbers: Africa’s Data Revolution

Africa at work: Job creation and inclusive growth

Africa Agriculture Status Report: Youth in Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa

Vulindlel’eJozi website 

Africa programme on Accelerated Improvement of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics

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