Africa is home to nearly 363 million young people and their numbers are projected to double by 2050. However, the full potential of young Africans remains untapped: unemployment, working poverty, informal employment and gender inequality continue to be significant hurdles for young people to access decent jobs.
At the same time, digital technologies are transforming societies and labour markets, with the potential to create new jobs in the digital economy. Africa's transition to the digital economy offers an opportunity for job-rich growth. This requires a skilled workforce, efficient labour market facilitation and an enabling business environment. However, most young people lack the skills that are in demand in the digital economy and do not have access to suitable training opportunities or job matching services, while private sector job creation is insufficient and decent entrepreneurial opportunities are hard to come by.
Young people are the world's most important source of human capital and are key to achieving Agenda 2063 as well as the Sustainable Development Goals. With enhanced digital skills, access to markets, networks, finance, information, voice and representation, young Africans can both benefit from and contribute to their countries' digital transformation and long-term development.
Under the aegis of the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth, the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), with the support of the African Union (AU), has initiated a programme with continental reach to create decent employment and enhance skills for youth in Africa's digital economy. The programme aims to ensure that Africa's youth are empowered and able to benefit from new opportunities in the digital economy, and in turn, that their energy and creativity can be harnessed by expanding digitally enabled industries.
The programme’s approach is comprehensive, targeted and evidence-driven, and based on the principles of inclusion, participation and respect for human rights. Its framework was developed through consultation with young people, governments, educators and digital economy partners in the public and private sectors.
GoalThe overarching goal is to increase the number of young Africans in target countries able to access decent work in the digital economy. The programme will operate through an iterative cycle of implementing interventions to create jobs, strengthen digital skills and improve employment services; establishing partnerships and networks, and providing policy advice using new diagnostic tools and data showing what best boosts youth employment. Under the umbrella of the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth, the programme will operate at continent level to establish between country partnerships and facilitate learning from each participating country’s own plans for youth employment and digital skills development.
1. Labour demand – job creation and entrepreneurship opportunities in the digital economy: Boosting labour demand depends upon the presence of an enabling business climate where firms and young entrepreneurs can thrive, a crucial requirement put at jeopardy by COVID-19. The programme will promote proemployment policies and collaborate with governments, workers and employers in the implementation of “first digital jobs” interventions, linking young entrepreneurs to value chains in urban and rural settings, strengthening job quality in the informal economy and facilitating the transition of youth into the formal economy.
2. Labour supply – investments in youth digital skills: A labour force equipped for not only today’s but tomorrow’s labour market is a win-win for governments, social partners, private sector, industry and youth. The programme will support governments to develop policies that strengthen the supply of demand-driven skills in the digital economy. In addition, the programme will improve the quality and focus of skills development interventions in terms of curricula development, teaching and training settings. It will also design and deliver digital skills development interventions that target different youth groups with through partnerships.
3. Labour intermediation – preparing public and private employment services for the digital era: The programme will address the skills mismatches and information asymmetries that exist in many countries. A key focus will be enabling employment services to adapt to and pilot new technologies and digital platforms, to understand what the changing needs are for specific skills and identify pportunities for youth in the digital economy.
Evidence to understand what works
New evidence about the challenges, opportunities and best practices for skills development and youth employment in Africa’s digital economy is to be generated through improved diagnostic tools and data collection. Youth
employment stakeholders will be invited to participate in national, regional and continental fora to disseminate lessons learned, share knowledge and discuss opportunities to boost youth skills development and employment.
Collaboration to sustain and scale up results
The programme will establish networks, innovate and foster collaboration among key stakeholders to create an enabling policy environment for sustainable digital transformation. It will seek out and capitalize on synergies with already existing initiatives at the country and regional level. Campaigns to promote and protect the rights and responsibilities of young people working in the digital economy will be launched, seeking also to incentivize young women and other vulnerable or marginalized youth to participate in digital skills development activities.