morsy1_Michael CandeloriNurPhoto via Getty Images_africa youth work Michael Candelori/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Addressing Africa’s Skills Mismatch

Africa’s youth bulge is a major asset, with the potential to drive growth and development for decades to come. But if the continent’s young people are unable to find jobs suited to their education and skills, it could become a serious liability.

ABIDJAN – While much of the world struggles with rapid population aging, Africa is experiencing the opposite trend. With 60% of the continent’s population under the age of 25, African leaders must ensure not only that a sufficient number of quality jobs are available, but also that young people receive the education and training necessary to fill these positions. And when it comes to the latter imperative, much action is needed.

Mismatches between available jobs and the skills and qualifications of the workforce are widespread across Africa. According to a recent African Development Bank study of ten countries – Benin, Republic of Congo, Egypt, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, and Zambia – a majority of young Africans are undereducated for their jobs, and nearly one-third are under-skilled. Moreover, young people who are over-skilled or overeducated for their current positions are underpaid and frustrated by their limited career opportunities and wasted or deteriorating talents.

Undereducated youth do enjoy a wage premium, but it comes at the cost of job satisfaction. The underskilled suffer from the pressure of trying to keep up with the requirements of their job, and from the constant fear of losing it. Eventually, underskilled youth suffer “scarring,” or lasting damage to their economic circumstances and prospects. They accept mismatched jobs out of desperation rather than waiting, unemployed, for more suitable positions that may never come.

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