According to an AfDB report of 2012, “the bulk of African countries have a very young population.
Cincotta (2010) has noted that this often implies a large proportion of young adults in the working-age population (over 40 percent), a rapidly growing school age population, and high rates of workforce growth.”
So, in most African countries nearly half of the workforce, or rather working-age population, are young people.
The report provides the following analysis of the aforementioned statistics: “These dynamics in turn are associated with high levels of unemployment and political instability/backlash.
If countries manage the demographic transition wisely, a window of opportunity opens up (demographic dividend) for faster economic growth and human development (Ross, 2004).”
Two points are raised in the analysis. One, the socio-political risks and implications of high youth unemployment. Two, the socio-economic benefits of properly and effectively engaging the youth demographic.
The AfDB calls these benefits “a window of opportunity for faster economic growth and human development.”, and I wonder how engaged are the private sectors in Africa’s economies on this topic?
How much of business, goods and services, financial facilities are geared towards harnessing the economic growth and subsequent spending-power of markets whose consumers are over 40% youth?
How sustainable is business in Africa, when business, jobs and financing are still largely elusive to the youth of most African countries?
What are Africa’s private sectors doing to integrate a young working-age population into its businesses and industries? How many banks are even interested in venture funding and investment specifically packaged to youthful entrepreneurship, for example?
How effective are African curricula at preparing this young working-age group of people for the economic challenges faced by a growing base of young and unemployed Africans? Are the youth being equipped with the right skill-sets in today’s African economies?
Often, these questions are directed straight to governments, but I wonder if we are not better off posing these questions to the drivers of our economies: the private sectors of Africa.
After all, the long-term sustainability of African businesses and industries depends on clients and consumers. And when your market is composed of over 40% (and rising!) youth, is it not reckless to continue to ignore this segment of the population?