Structural reforms required to create more jobs in Africa: WEF
The World Economic Forum (WEF) Africa Competitiveness Report 2017 released in Durban Thursday called for urgent policy reforms if the continent intends to create more jobs for its growing young population.
According to the report issued at the 27th WEF on Africa, fewer than one-quarter of the 450 million new jobs required in the next 20 years will be created if current policies remain unchanged.
The report called for structural reforms in the economies to create more jobs for the youth entering the market. African countries have to prioritize improving infrastructure, skills and adoption of new technology and quality of institutions.
To improve competitiveness in the short term Africa needs to increase housing construction through investment, better urban planning and less bureaucracy. There is also an urgent need to develop value-chain links to extractive sectors to encourage diversification in resource-rich countries.
The report also called for the targeted support for vulnerable regions and populations in fragile countries and open trade policies to foster regional economic integration. African countries need to prioritize sector-specific reforms in labor-intensive sectors such as agri-business, construction and micro-enterprises, it said.
"To meet the aspirations of their growing youth populations, African governments are well-advised to enact polices that improve levels of productivity and the business environment for trade and investment," said Klaus Tilmes, Director of the Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice at the World Bank Group.
The report also encouraged the development of the right skills and greater adoption of technology. Africa in the long term need to strengthen institutions to enable better policy implementation.
The failure of policy implementation in the past has often been attributed to weak institutions. The continent also needs to improved infrastructure to enable greater levels of trade and business growth, said WEF.
Abebe Shimeles, Acting Director of Macroeconomic Policy, Forecasting and Research Department at the African Development Bank, said infrastructural development holds the key to unlock growth in the continent.
"African cities have to update their urban plans, taking into account demographic and economic developments in the last decades. This is crucial to address the shortage of urban infrastructure and availability of land for residential housing. This is important as a massive investment is needed for the continent to lower the housing backlog, thereby improving the lives of urban residents and to create employment for the Youth," Shimeles said.
The report, done by the African Development Bank, the World Bank and the World Economic Forum, also shows the detailed competitiveness profiles of 35 African economies.
About 65 percent of Africa's 1.1-billion population is youth under 35. It is projected by the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) that the African population will more than double to 2.4 billion by 2050.
WEF on Africa that started on Wednesday is currently underway in Durban. Leaders in government, business and civil society are deliberating on various issues like inclusive growth, digital divide, youth and women empowerment and how to address the climate change.