Double youth investments or face looming crisis

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ONE, a campaigning and advocacy organisation of nearly 8 million people taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa has urged African leaders at the World Economic Forum on Africa (WEFA), in Durban, South Africa to take bold actions to reap the benefits of Africa’s fast-growing population, estimated to almost double by 2050.

WEFA’s meeting of regional and global leaders from business, government and civil society focused on economic development opportunities issues facing the continent. ONE called on African governments to urgently increase and implement investments in young people between 2017 and 2020 to avoid plunging the continent into a crisis.

The African continent stands to add $15 trillion to its economy over the next 30 years, but these gains are largely dependent on governments making investments now to ensure that young people have the skills they need to contribute to the workforce, as well as job opportunities, and health, social and financial support. Turning the increase in Africa’s population into concrete benefits will require smart policies and investments in education, employment and empowerment, particularly for women and young people, who face additional barriers to completing their education, entering and advancing within the workforce, and achieving overall empowerment.

The lobby group recommended a doubling of development financing from the current $60 billion to $120 billion by 2020 to meet the needs of the continent’s growing population. African governments should be at the forefront of making these investments with development partners backing them.

ONE Africa Interim Director, Nachilala Nkombo said: “Africa heads of states at their July 2017 AU summit must agree on a set of investment targets to be made starting from 2017-2020 required to prevent a demographic disaster and ensure a dividend. Africa states urgently need the implementation of smart policies and targeted investments that focus on delivering education, employment and empowerment for its exploding youth population.

Failure by our governments to grasp this opportunity will result in increased deepened poverty, conflicts, terrorism and famine that will spill over individual country’s borders.
“As the G20 focuses on Africa this year, it is important that they focus their partnerships and Compacts with Africa between 2017 – 2020 on investments and reforms that will accelerate the creation of millions of opportunities and jobs for Africa’s exploding population.”

The group also recommended a strategy through which investments in Africa could be doubled, targeted and illicit capital flight at least halved, by 2020. This combination of increased quality and quantity of both internally and externally generated resources should be targeted towards specific interventions to improve education, employment and empowerment outcomes.

To reap the benefits of an African demographic dividend, ONE says, African leaders must increase the quantity and quality of education spending in their country budgets with the aim of getting 15.6 million more girls into school in Africa by 2020.

They also suggest that domestic budgets for education should be increased to reach 5.8% of GDP. In order to benefit from its younger population, Africa must create jobs and halve the proportion of young Africans (aged 15 – 24) who are unemployed from 60% to 30% by 2020 and lastly, African governments must ensure that all development finance flows are conditional on implementation of open government best practice, especially citizens being able to monitor government budgets, and public procurement and contracting processes being fully open.

ONE raises public awareness and presses political leaders to combat AIDS and other preventable diseases, increase investments in agriculture and nutrition, and demand greater transparency in poverty-fighting programs. It is working with the African Union Commission and several partners to bring focus on the urgent need for African governments to invest in the exploding youth population.

Africa’s population is predicted to double by 2050. However, ONE says, a narrow and closing window of opportunity still exists for the region to harness a ‘demographic dividend’ as the continent’s youthful workforce grows.

If African leaders boldly invest with ambition, urgency and effectiveness between 2017 and 2020, the continent’s youth can drive a surge in inclusive growth that will benefit, not only Africa but also the world. In fact, it is estimated that the African continent stands to add $15 trillion to its economy over the next 30 years. However, translating this increased potential from the demographic transition into concrete dividends will not be automatic. It will require appropriate policies and strategic youth education, employment and empowerment investments, particularly for women and girls. If African leaders do not invest wisely, then Africa and the world will witness a destabilising demographic disaster characterised by cross-border widespread poverty, conflict and insecurity.
ONE will put forward the following policy imperatives for African governments at the African Union to consider as they plan to harness the potential demographic dividend.

EDUCATION

Implement actions to scale up programs that enroll youths and in particular, keep more girls in school, especially secondary school. School enrolment is not sufficient; these actions must also improve their learning outcomes with more and better investments in education.

Education key outcomes

  1. Get 15.6 million more girls into school in Africa by 2020 [global target: 34 million]
  2. Increase quality and access opportunities to education for youths in conflict-affected areas to reduce the impact of conflict by 20%.
  3. Increase and properly align education budget allocation to focus on the quality of learning and education outcomes, especially for girls.

Recommended policy actions on education

  • Make education work for every girl by assessing and breaking the greatest barriers that keep girls out of school (including cost, cultural norms, and violence) and those that prevent girls from learning once they are in school (such as inadequate facilities and poor teaching).
  • Intensify investments on initiatives to improve attitudes on women’s rights, address constraints faced by young persons in fragile settings, including creating and inter-community trust to reduce conflicts that drive children, especially girls out of school.
  • Invest in accountability, transparency mechanisms by gathering, analysing and publishing accurate data on education and learning results, which are broken down by gender and by primary and secondary school.
  • Expand tax bases and the share of spending on education to at least 20% of budgets; ensuring funds are allocated in alignment with strengthened education sector plans.
  • Change curriculum to focus on skills and knowledge that increase economic participation for job seekers and innovators in specific national industries particularly fields of science, mathematics and technology
  • Connect every classroom by 2020 to ensure students and teachers have access to technology to increase and expand learning, making digital learning and literacy a key component of the curriculum.
  • Facilitate the inclusion of conflict-resolution initiatives in educational programs to stimulate critical thinking in order to objectively analyse and question extreme ideologies
  • Put particular emphasis on education quality:
    Improve teacher recruitment, training and remuneration processes.
    Develop initiatives to increase access to pre-primary services, remedial support, and second chance education for adults

Implement accountability systems, which can be enabled by technology   like opening education budgets on digital platforms.

Invest more in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) teacher training and set targets for pupils taking STEM subjects

EMPLOYMENT

Implement policy actions that create an enabling environment for private sector activities to flourish. Should drive enterprise development and employment creation policies in Africa. Key economic sectors such as agriculture are crucial to these policy actions. African leaders must implement policies that promote flexible labour markets and facilitate the development of labor-intensive sectors, so Africa can compete globally.

Employment Key Outcomes

  • Halve the proportion of young sub-Saharan Africans (aged 15 – 24) who are unemployed from 11.9% to 6%.
  • Double the number of students receiving vocational skills training and STEM education (from 8% to 16%) especially for agribusiness by 2020.
  • Halve the total credit gap (currently at 70%) for micro, small, and medium-size enterprises (MSMEs) in Africa by 2020.
  • Create an enabling environment for youth in conflict-affected communities to have access to resources to develop skills and engage in income generating activities
    Recommended Policy Actions on Employment
  • Employ youth in agribusiness and public works programs that include power, transportation, postharvest processing, water, and other infrastructure projects in rural, poor communities.
  • Create costed national rural youth employment strategies, and fund them via national budgets, multilateral funding and direct bilateral funds from donors and organisations. Donors and international organisations should provide technical assistance to create and cost these strategies.
  • Leverage the agriculture sector – change the structures, incentives and perception that keep agriculture opportunities locked through the creation of opportunities across the value chains of agriculture products consumed locally and abroad. For instance, increasing availability of ICTs would not only alleviate financial services, training, and market access roadblocks but would attract youth to the sector.
  • Facilitate the creation of youth cooperatives to allow groups to access big markets and act as guarantor for financial services, pooling of resources and inputs purchases.
  • In fragile zones, create a more effective eco-system for helping the transition from vulnerable livelihoods employment situations towards more meaningful and stable portfolios of work.
  • Create local, national and regional market opportunities for youth-led businesses and mobility for entrepreneurs and workers through visa on arrival/visa-free policies within sub-regions and implement the African Union passport.
  • In partnership with the banking and retail sector, scale-up microcredit and SME financing programs, financial literacy training and value chain training to enable youth to adequately meet the needs of identified markets.
  • Facilitate training needed for youth-led businesses to qualify to participate in government procurements both professionally and profitably.
  • Improve competitiveness to stimulate enterprise creation and attract FDI (leverage experience of best performing African economies);
  • Improve access to financial services that enable youth to raise capital for enterprises and increase the opportunity costs of youth joining armed groups for monetary gains
  • African governments should all ratify the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement and put in place training for local SMEs to raise awareness on the increased trade opportunities.

EMPOWERMENT

Implement actions that improve the productivity of the youth workforce and give voice and space to their aspirations to contribute to African prosperity that will create a better future. Good health and well being, as well as youth participation in nation building, are central to reducing youth vulnerability and maximising human capital investments.

Empowerment Key Outcomes

  • Increased space for youth participation in local, national and continental governance in Africa
  • Double national investments in nutrition to work toward achieving the Malabo commitment to reduce stunting to 10% by 2025
  • Reduce by half the proportion of people living with HIV in need of treatment in Africa by 2020 and train 5.1 million more African healthcare workers by 2020
  • Double the proportion of Africans living on $1.90/day who are reached by conditional and unconditional social safety net programs, especially digital and other direct cash transfers.
  • Double the amount of year-on-year progress (with 2015-2016 baseline) on the provision of electricity access for rural areas.

Recommended Policy Actions on Empowerment

  • Facilitate regular, non-partisan spaces for young people across political parties and backgrounds to chart and implement a common future based on common values in the various structures they belong that safeguards their common future.
  • Scale-up investments in nutrition; create dedicated, transparent budget lines; and appoint an inter-ministerial nutrition committee headed by a coordinator, all in line with plans created under Scaling Up Nutrition, to achieve the Malabo commitment to reduce stunting to 10% by 2025.
  • Ensure Universal Health Coverage for all, with emphasis on increasing rural access to health care services, immunisation against preventable diseases and unhindered access to sexual and reproductive health services focused on young people especially women.
  • Engage in women’s economic empowerment partnerships with multilateral organisations, private sector partners and other governments (as an area of social and economic cooperation).
  • Remove age restrictions that exclude young people from running for office at all levels and proactively ensure young people occupy influential leadership positions. If they are old enough to vote, they should be old enough to run.
  • Incentivize youth to use technology like mobile phones to monitor government budgets, service delivery and public procurement, and fully open all contracting processes to increase youth access to information for increased accountability.
  • Enact or enforce laws that outlaw practices that discriminate against women and youth, for instance on early marriages, women and youth access and ownership of productive resources.
  • Provide a platform for youth to exchange on development and security issues and engage them as actors of change.
  • Ensure all development finance flows are conditional on implementation of outcome-based programs, open government best practice, especially citizens being able to monitor outcomes, government budgets, and public procurement and contracting processes being fully open.

FUNDING AND ENABLING ENVIRONMENT

To deliver the targets for harnessing the demographic dividend, and creating an enabling environment for policy to translate into actual development outcomes through targeted investments must be in place with the required funding mechanisms for all programmes.
Funding and Enabling Environment Key Outcomes

Improve targeting of education budgets and transparency of government contracts
Halve illicit capital flight by 2020 from $89 billion to $44 billion
Double FDI in Africa from $52 billion to 104 billion

Halve the gap to achieve nationally defined revenue-to-GDP ratios (or achieve a 20% ratio)

Recommended Policy Actions on Funding and Enabling Environment

  • Fighting illicit financial flows through publishing government contracts according to the principles of the Open Contracting Data Standard, make information public about who owns companies and trusts, available in open data formats in a centralized register, strengthening anti-money laundering efforts, implementing robust mandatory reporting laws for the oil, gas and mining sectors that require companies to publicly disclose the project-level payments they make to governments for the extraction of natural resources.
  • Establish independent coordination and monitoring bodies at country and continental levels. A multi-sector, multi-stakeholder coordination mechanism can strengthen the capacity of the countries and the AU itself in driving the Demographic Dividend agenda.