Youth employment in Africa and Europe: A common challenge with some common solutions
Minister Sidi Tiémoko Touré at the European Development Days 2017
Governments around the world are struggling to solve the problem of youth unemployment. Some countries are trying to cope with a demographic pressure, which has produced unprecedented numbers of young people reaching adulthood and looking for work. In other cases, the problem is a skills mismatch: Young people enter the job market without the skills required by businesses.
The government of Côte d'Ivoire set up a ministry of young people’s affairs, which was charged with looking for solutions with other ministries. It first established the age profile of the country’s population in order to figure out the scale of the task: Three-quarters of the population is under the age of 35.
“The biggest challenge in the Côte d’Ivoire – which is actually a regional and global challenge – is employment,” said Sidi Tiémoko Touré, the country’s Minister for the Promotion of Youth, Employment for the Young and Public Service.
One solution is to encourage entrepreneurship and self-employment among the young. “If they become employers, perhaps I won’t have to do anything for employment again,” he said.
Another is skills development. “There’s a very big problem in the Côte d’Ivoire, which I think is shared by many African countries, and that’s the gap between training and jobs,” Touré said.
Watch the rest of the interview with Sidi Tiémoko Touré:
Funded by the European Union, the Youth Inclusion project provides support to Côte d’Ivoire's government so it can better respond to the aspirations of young people and increase their chances of finding work.
According to Touré, the agrisector holds a lot of potential for the country's youth. “Côte d’Ivoire is very much an agricultural country, and it seems abberrant that we only serve as providers of raw material," he said. "For example, we are the largest producers of cococa in the world, but it is only grown here – most of it is sent abroad to make chocolate without having undergone any kind of processing.”
The challenge lies in changing the youth's mentality. “We're trying to have them think like agrisector businessmen," Touré explained. "So that more of them can find a place within the production chain, where the cocoa is transformed into chocolate, ensuring that the process takes place in African countries.”
In a better light
Europe does not have Africa’s growing population of young people. But many countries struggle with stubborn unemployment – while some appear to have solved the problem.
“We reached a point where the level of youth unemployment in Europe was very high: 25 percent of young people were unemployed,” said Frédérique Naulette, Project Manager for Nestlé’s Global Youth Initiative. “In countries where apprenticeship was very well developed, like Switzerland and Germany, the level of youth unemployment was far lower.”
Nestlé launched initiatives to promote apprenticeship schemes and to prepare young people to enter the job market, for example by teaching them to write their CVs. But attitudes can get in the way.
Watch the rest of the interview with Frédérique Naulette:
“If I look at apprenticeship, one of main hurdles today is that actually parents don’t want to send their children to apprenticeship because it has a very bad image,” she said.
“So we’ve been working with local education sector to increase and improve the quality of education that is given to apprenticeships, so that young people and their parents realise that it’s an equal choice for everyone, and not only a career path that you go if you don’t manage to have a master’s degree, for instance.”
This collaborative piece was drafted by Sebastian Moffett, with input from Sidi Tiémoko Touré and Frédérique Naulette, and support from Maria-Rosa De Paolis.