Unemployment and creating decent jobs are among the key challenges confronting inclusive development in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), with a growing population estimated to reach 2.2 billion people by 2050. To address these obstacles, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Economic Policy Competence Centre (EPCC) organized a three-day conference from the 13th to the 16th of June in Accra with the theme: Employment Generation in Africa – Perspectives and Challenges. The conference brought together a wide range of experts from politics, academia, trade unions and civil society to discuss the complexity of unemployment in SSA and possible solutions to tackle the crisis.
During the conference, five case studies on the employment generation in SSA were launched, specifically for Ghana, Ethiopia, Benin, Madagascar and South Africa. The different panel discussions continuously highlighted three megatrends that significantly influence the current employment situation – namely, digitalization, urbanization, and climate change. The three megatrends both have negative and positive impacts on the prevailing circumstances. For instance, digitalization is influencing and changing the world of work significantly. While digitalization offers a new way of employment creation, most workers are not yet ready due to the lack of technical knowledge.
The urbanization of cities also proved to be a challenge because many cities in SSA struggle to provide enough and sufficient infrastructure for job-seeking people and migrants from rural areas. Consequently, urban sprawl, unsafe living conditions, and lack of decent jobs shape the urbanization in SSA. Finally, Climate change is a massive threat to the agricultural sector due to changing rainfall patterns, droughts and floodings, to mention a few. Nonetheless, there is still room to adapt to the changing climate while offering new job opportunities such as climate-smart agriculture.
Consequently, the right investment in people and infrastructure is crucial in harnessing the gains of megatrends while effectively mitigating and adapting to them. The role of the Academia, Civil Societies, Private Sector, trade unions and the Government in ensuring the creation of sustainable employment is thus key. Academia can provide critical information on existing policies and identify gaps and possible solutions. At the same time, civil society can engage in the political landscape by holding the government accountable for certain policies. Governments in SSA need to act and create functioning policies and fiscal space for decent employment. Also, the private sector can foster innovation and create decent employment.
Finally, the discussions revealed that an intercontinental approach to collaborating with other countries to solve these challenges is critical.