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WEFA: African leaders face special challenges in job creation – Pres. Jonathan

African leaders face special challenges in their efforts to create jobs for their people, because of the predominant youthful population on the continent, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan said Thursday at the 24th edition World Economic Forum on Africa (WEFA), holding in Nigeria’s capital city of Abuja.

”In Africa, the unemployment problem is compounded by our youthful population and pending demographic transition. As you know Africa’s population is very young. Other continents are ‘aging’, but Africa’s population of young people is growing. African leaders therefore face special challenges. We have the challenge to provide jobs, housing and healthcare,” he said.

PANA reports that the 7-9 WEFA, which has attracted several African leaders among about 1,000 other participants, has as its theme: ”Creating Jobs and Forging Inclusive Growth”.

The Nigerian leader said the African job challenge has been made more urgent by the reverse migration that has put African at the receiving end of many job seekers

”In fact, there have been many reported cases of reverse migration of young graduates from Portugal and Spain, who are now moving back to their former colonies such as Angola, Brazil and Mozambique to seek jobs!

”In Africa, we also have our employment challenges. The unemployment rates today are over 20 percent in many of our countries – Nigeria at about 24%, South Africa at 25%,” he said.

The Nigerian President said the situation was bound to get more challenging, considering experts’ prediction that the youth population is going to grow even further.

”McKinsey, the consulting firm, has calculated that an additional 122 million workers will enter Africa’s labour force by 2020. And that, by 2035, the combined size of the African labour force would be greater than that of the most heavily populated countries in the world, including China.

”This is daunting, and should be a wake-up call to all of us in Africa to work harder on job creation with a great sense of urgency. We have a lot of young people who are unemployed but who also do not necessarily have the required competencies or skills, even if the jobs are available and that again, is a major challenge,” President Jonathan said.

On how to create jobs, President Jonathan said the Nigerian example would go a long way.

”For us in Nigeria, job creation has been the main focus of our ongoing Transformation Agenda – which is our programme to modernise and diversify the Nigerian economy. Job creation is one of the concerns that keeps me up at night, and it has been the main theme of our Federal Government Budget in recent years.  

”We recognise that the private sector will be the engine of growth and job-creation. And we are putting in place the necessary conditions to support this private sector growth, such as: ensuring a stable macroeconomic environment (low inflation, stable exchange rates and so on), investing in critical infrastructure (roads, railways, power etc.), and investing in the development of skills of our people,” he said.

He said Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy and the 26th largest in the world, has focused on a number of priority sectors which have high job-creating potential, such as agriculture, manufacturing, housing & construction, and the services sectors.

”And in each of these sectors, we are working to unlock the various obstacles faced by businesses so they create jobs. We are learning from the example of other countries – such as China – to see what they have done in this regard to create jobs for their citizens,” the Nigerian leader said.

He said in the short term, his Administration has introduced some special, government initiatives such as a business plan competition for young entrepreneurs (called YouWiN) which provides grants of between US$10,000-US$90,000 equivalent to the best business plans.

There is also the Graduate Internship Scheme which places recent graduates in private sector jobs, and a public works programme as part of the country’s Subsidy Re-investment Program (SURE-P) which has created about 120,000 jobs.

”Overall, the National Bureau of Statistics estimates that 1.6 million jobs were created across the country in the past 12 months, but my Administration is not relenting because we are aware that even more jobs are needed to support our growing youth population,” he added.

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