Youth Employment Statistics in Africa in 2023

Youth Employment Statistics in Africa

Youth Employment in Africa: Key Takeaways

  • Africa has the youngest population in the world, with over 60% of people under the age of 25. This means there are over 200 million youth in Africa.
  • The youth unemployment rate in Africa is extremely high, averaging over 20% across the continent. In some countries, it is as high as 70-80%.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest youth unemployment rate in the world at over 30%.
  • Young women face even higher unemployment rates than young men in most African countries.
  • The main causes of high youth unemployment in Africa are the lack of decent jobs, skills mismatches, and barriers to entering the labor market.
  • Agriculture employs the largest share of African youth (60%), but most of this employment is in subsistence farming characterized by low productivity and wages.
  • The formal wage sector accounts for less than 20% of youth employment in Africa. Youth have limited access to formal jobs due to lack of work experience, skills, and networks.
  • Unemployed youth in Africa suffer from higher poverty rates, social exclusion, risky behaviors, and emigration out of the continent.
  • Solutions to the youth unemployment crisis require comprehensive strategies focused on education, economic growth, enterprise development, and targeted youth employment programs.

Overview of Youth Unemployment in Major African Countries

Nigeria

  • Youth unemployment rate: 19.61% in 2021
  • Number of unemployed youth: 11.9 million
  • Main cause: Lack of job creation in the economy

South Africa

  • Youth unemployment rate: 63.9% 
  • Number of unemployed youth: 3.3 million
  • Main cause: Slow economic growth, skills mismatch

Egypt

  • Youth unemployment rate: 34.2% 
  • Number of unemployed youth: 3.1 million
  • Main cause: High youth labor force growth, stagnant economy

Ethiopia

  • Youth unemployment rate: 22.3%
  • Number of unemployed youth: 2.5 million
  • Main cause: High population growth, low job creation

Kenya

  • Youth unemployment rate: 17.3%
  • Number of unemployed youth: 1.4 million
  • Main cause: Education-job mismatch, lack of work experience

Ghana

  • Youth unemployment rate: 48%
  • Number of unemployed youth: 1.5 million
  • Main cause: High youth labor force growth, lack of jobs

Tanzania

  • Youth unemployment rate: 13.7%
  • Number of unemployed youth: 1.5 million
  • Main cause: Slow transition to wage jobs

Algeria

  • Youth unemployment rate: 29.9%
  • Number of unemployed youth: 1.2 million
  • Main cause: Reliance on hydrocarbon sector, bloated public sector

Sources:

  1. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1288552/unemployed-population-in-nigeria-by-age-group/
  2. https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@dgreports/@dcomm/@publ/documents/publication/wcms_513739.pdf
  3. https://www.statista.com/statistics/812300/youth-unemployment-rate-in-nigeria/
  4. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1288721/number-of-people-unemployed-in-nigeria/
  5. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1119403/youth-unemployment-rate-in-nigeria-by-quarter/
  6. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1288721/number-of-people-unemployed-in-nigeria/
  7. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1288552/unemployed-population-in-nigeria-by-age-group/
  8. https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/@dgreports/@dcomm/@publ/documents/publication/wcms_513739.pdf

The Magnitude of Africa’s Youth Unemployment Crisis

Africa has the youngest population globally with a median age of 19. Over 200 million people on the continent are aged between 15-24, representing more than 60% of the population in some countries. This burgeoning youth population could be a driver of economic growth if their energy and talents are properly harnessed. However, Africa is currently plagued by extremely high youth unemployment that hinders social and economic progress.

On average, youth unemployment is over 20% in Africa – double the world average. But the aggregate figures mask the severity of the issue in different African countries. Youth unemployment exceeds 50% in South Africa, Senegal, Nigeria, Namibia, Angola, Mozambique, Mauritania, and Botswana. Rates are also intolerably high in North African countries like Tunisia (over 40%), Egypt (34%), and Algeria (almost 30%).
Overall, Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest regional youth unemployment rate globally at over 30% . Without urgent action, the situation could worsen as 10-12 million youth enter the workforce annually. Tapping this enormous human resource potential is critical for Africa to harness the demographic dividend and achieve sustainable development.

Sources:

  1. https://www.wilsoncenter.org/blog-post/africas-median-age-about-19-median-age-its-leaders-about-63
  2. https://www.un.org/ohrlls/news/young-people%E2%80%99s-potential-key-africa%E2%80%99s-sustainable-development
  3. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1226211/population-of-africa-by-age-group/
  4. https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2022/04/why-study-aging-in-africa-region-with-worlds-youngest-population.html
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Youth_in_Africa
  6. https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—dcomm/—publ/documents/publication/wcms_853321.pdf

Causes of High Youth Unemployment in Africa

There are several complex and interlinked factors fueling the youth unemployment crisis in Africa:

Lack of Job Creation in the Economy

The slow pace of job creation is a huge constraint, with only 3 million formal jobs added in 2018 when at least 20 million are needed annually. African economies are growing too slowly to absorb the rapidly expanding labor force.

Skills Mismatches

The education system in many countries is misaligned with labor market demands, resulting in graduates without the skills for available jobs. Vocational training is also inadequate. This leads to talent shortages even amidst high unemployment.

Barriers to Labor Market Entry

First-time job seekers like the youth face obstacles like lack of work experience, limited networks, recruitment practices biased toward credentialed workers, and unaffordable costs to search for work. Young women also face cultural barriers.

Small Formal Sector

In most countries, the informal sector accounts for over 80% of employment. But opportunities here are mostly in subsistence agriculture or household enterprises providing irregular, low-wage work.

Population Growth

Africa’s still-high fertility rates result in rapid growth in the working age population, exacerbating unemployment if jobs do not increase commensurately.

Impact on Youth and Africa’s Development

The social and economic consequences of massive youth unemployment in Africa are severe and far-reaching:

  • Poverty: Unemployed youth have higher poverty rates, worse health indicators, and lower quality of life.
  • Social Exclusion: Lack of jobs alienates young people and excludes them from mainstream social and economic life.
  • Underemployment in Agriculture: Most African youth still work in agriculture, but under precarious conditions without social protection or decent incomes.
  • Weakened Human Capital: Prolonged unemployment erodes skills and under utilizes Africa’s human capital.
  • Migration Out of Africa: High youth unemployment drives emigration out of the continent in search of opportunities.
  • Risky Behaviors: Idle youth can engage in substance abuse, crime and violence, posing problems for social stability.

Africa’s development pathway risks being derailed if the energy and creativity of its youth is not productively channeled into socioeconomic activities. Tackling youth unemployment must be a key policy priority.

Youth Unemployment by Gender in Africa

Young women in Africa face even higher barriers to employment compared to young men:

  • The youth unemployment rate for females is 9-13% higher than for males in most African countries .
  • In North Africa, young women are twice as likely to be unemployed compared to young men.
  • Factors like discriminatory socio-cultural attitudes, lower educational levels, and household responsibilities affect female labor force participation.
  • Young rural women are over represented in vulnerable employment in agriculture where wages are lowest.
  • Entrepreneurship programs to boost self-employment among female youth are needed.

With gender inequality still deeply embedded in social institutions, targeted measures must be taken to ease the transition of young African women into decent work.

 

Sources:

Key Sectors for Youth Employment in Africa

  1. Agriculture: Provides 60% of youth employment but needs transformation into modern agribusiness.
  2. Retail and Hospitality: Expanding services sector can leverage Africa’s youthful consumer market.
  3. ICT: Innovative technology sector offers opportunities in software, app development, etc.
  4. Healthcare: Rapid growth expected with Africa’s rising population and health needs.
  5. Education: More schools and training institutes required to serve expanding student population.
  6. Construction: Infrastructure and housing developments can generate millions of jobs.
  7. Renewable Energy: Huge potential with Africa’s natural resources.
  8. Transportation and Logistics: Enabling mobility and connectivity will create jobs.
  9. Manufacturing: Needs to be expanded beyond dependency on natural resources.
  10. Financial Services: Banking, insurance and other services remain underdeveloped.

Sources:

Policy Solutions for Africa’s Youth Unemployment Crisis

A multifaceted strategy is imperative to absorb Africa’s expanding youth labor force into productive employment and decent work. Key policy recommendations:

  • Industrial strategies to accelerate job-rich economic transformation, diversification and growth.
  • Reform education and training systems to better equip youth with skills aligned to labor market needs.
  • Support youth entrepreneurship with business development training, mentorship and access to finance.
  • Labor market reforms to incentivize private sector hiring of young people.
  • Targeted active labor market programs like apprenticeships, internships, job matching and second chance programs.
  • Universal access to digital skills and technologies to connect youth to work.
  • Eliminate barriers to young women’s employment through legal reforms, affirmative action and social protection.
  • Expand social insurance to protect youth in the informal economy.
  • Engage youth in policy and program design to amplify their voices in decisions that affect them.

With long-term, evidence-based strategies, African countries can transform their youth bulge into an economic boom rather than let it turn into a demographic time bomb.

Spotlight on Country Efforts to Tackle Youth Unemployment

While the youth unemployment challenge remains daunting across most of Africa, some countries have made notable policy efforts:

South Africa

  • Expanded vocational training programs and community colleges to equip youth with more relevant skills.
  • Introduced youth employment tax incentives for companies hiring young people.
  • Launched the Youth Employment Service to create 1 million paid internships for youth.

Senegal

  • Modernized agriculture and boosted aggro-processing to create better quality rural jobs.
  • Prioritized vocational training tailored to labor market needs.
  • Provided financing and training to enable youth entrepreneurship.

Rwanda

  • Transformed agriculture into a high productivity sector and linked farmers to agribusiness value chains.
  • Supported youth in technical secondary schools to develop occupational skills.
  • Created a National Youth Council to amplify youth perspectives in policy making.

Ethiopia

  • Expanded higher education enrollment to develop skilled workforce.
  • Established industrial parks and economic zones targeting job creation for youth.
  • Provided entrepreneurship and skills training for unemployed urban youth.

Ghana

  • Instituted National Youth Employment programs offering apprenticeships and job matching services.
  • Developed Youth Enterprise Support Fund to provide youth-owned businesses with affordable credit.
  • Promoted labor-intensive infrastructure development programs that hire young people.

While more remains to be done, these examples highlight smart, context-specific strategies that can be replicated and scaled up across the continent.

Frequently Asked Questions on Youth Unemployment in Africa

Which country in Africa has the highest youth unemployment rate?

South Africa has the highest youth unemployment rate in Africa at over 63%. This is higher than any other country in the world.

What percentage of youth are unemployed in North Africa?

In North Africa, youth unemployment averages around 30%, with peaks of over 40% in Tunisia and 34% in Egypt. Algeria, Morocco and Libya also have high rates exceeding 25%.

How does Sub-Saharan Africa’s youth unemployment compare globally?

With a youth unemployment rate of 32.6%, Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest regional rate in the world, well above the global average of 13.6%.

What are the main barriers faced by young women trying to enter the workforce in Africa?

Young women face hurdles like gender discrimination, lower education levels, household responsibilities, lack of soft skills, limited access to capital and assets, restrictive cultural norms, lack of childcare support and unsafe transport.

Which sectors provide the most employment opportunities for African youth?

Agriculture employs about 60% of youth in Africa followed by wholesale and retail trade. But most agriculture jobs are subsistence farming. ICT, healthcare, hospitality, construction, manufacturing and financial services offer better quality wage jobs.

How can governments address skills mismatches to reduce youth unemployment?

Reforms are needed like upgrading vocational training, apprenticeships, work readiness programs, career guidance centers, reviewing and updating curricula regularly based on industry demand, and encouraging STEM education.

What types of interventions help promote youth entrepreneurship in Africa?

Access to finance, entrepreneurship training, mentorship, incubators and accelerators, support for business formalization, initiatives to boost youth participation in public procurement, targeted financial products, and reforms to ease regulatory burdens.

Conclusion

Africa’s massive and growing youth population represents a tremendous opportunity to accelerate economic and social progress. But the current crisis of high unemployment and under-employment of youth across the continent jeopardizes these development prospects. Comprehensive and urgent policy solutions focused on job creation, skills development, enterprise support and labor market reforms are crucial to put Africa’s youth on the path to dignified work and improved well being. With foresight and commitment, African governments can implement strategies to ensure that youth unemployment ceases to threaten the future of both the youth and the continent.

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