Africa’s rising youth population is outpacing available jobs in the public and private sectors, leaving would-be workers vulnerable to exploitation, terrorism and human rights abuses. Nigerian entrepreneur Tony Elumelu believes the solution to Africa’s unemployment problem is for the private sector to lead and drive growth, a philosophy he calls “africapitalism”. He was on a two-day working visit to Ghana.
The president of Coca-Cola, Central, East and West Africa, Kelvin Balogun, says almost 50 percent of graduates churned out by universities in Africa each year do not find jobs.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates the youth unemployment rate in sub-Saharan Africa is nearly 12 percent. A World Bank report in 2016 said nearly half, (48 percent) of Ghanaian youth are unemployed. Analysts blame the country’s poor macroeconomic performance and a surge in population growth for the problem.
African leaders have committed to reduce poverty in the continent to below 20 percent by 2030, but the entrepreneur Tony Elumelu said this cannot be achieved if entrepreneurs are not empowered.
Elumelu believes the solution to unemployment is his ‘africapitalism’ philosophy- a concept in which the private sector leads and transforms development in Africa.
Elumelu says African entrepreneurs must partner to create more jobs for its youth. VOA caught up with him after he gave a lecture to students at the University of Ghana.
“Partnerships don’t work well in Africa and we must address this because collective effort is better than singular effort,” said Elumelu. “From my experience I think trust is very important. So alignment of interest is key panacea for addressing partnership failures in Africa.
VOA: And africapitalism is the solution?
Elumelu: “Africapitalism is the solution because (of) Africans coming together from (the) private sector perspective to address the development of our continent. Africans realizing that (there is) no one but us to develop Africa. Africans realizing that saving our monies abroad is not the solution. We need to let our governments know that what is good for private sector is good for the society.”
In Accra, John Amoah Kusi, enrolled in a master’s degree program in business at the University of Ghana, hoping to be more employable. But if a job doesn’t come his way Kusi says he’ll go back to school again.
“One other option is trying to look for PhD programs outside Ghana or probably in Ghana,” said Kusi. “It’s not just about the jobs. Yes, I want to get the experience but . . .
VOA: So if the job doesn’t come you’ll further your education?
VOA: And you’re certain that with the PhD you’ll get a job?
Kusi: “That’s a high possibility.”
Parry Allotey, a freshman at the University of Ghana, is also worried about not finding a job after graduating.
“I feel very worried because being unemployed is not a good thing,” said Allotey. “So I think going for leadership roles or you can go for internship or your masters. Like doing something that would make you look solid (for work).”
In Ghana, the unemployment problem was worsened by four years of interrupted electricity supply, which resulted in the loss of thousands of existing jobs and closure of many businesses.