UNCTAD, Commonwealth join forces to fight youth unemployment

Africa is facing a massive youth unemployment problem which poses complex economic and social issues. But not just Africa; the International Labour Organization says the world as a whole is facing a worsening youth unemployment crisis. Around 73 million young people are out of work and are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults.

With more than 60 percent of the population of Commonwealth countries (18 of which are in sub Saharan Africa) under the age of 30, finding quality training and a decent job is a serious challenge. According to the African Economic Outlook, the incidence of youth unemployment in sub- Saharan African is estimated to be over 20 percent. The Commonwealth Secretariat and The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has, therefore, identified youth entrepreneurship as a means of solving the problem, with the launching of a policy guide today (Nov. 24) at a business forum taking place ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta.

The guide includes recommended actions for policymakers and contains around 90 cases of policy measures that have had a positive impact.

“As youth unemployment hits critical levels, it is vital we create environments conducive to youth entrepreneurship. Given the right opportunities and support, young people have huge potential to drive economic growth. By making this new policy guide available, we hope to help governments invest strategically in the next generation of entrepreneurs,” said Katherine Ellis, Commonwealth Secretariat Youth Director.

UNCTAD notes that many young entrepreneurs from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances face age discrimination by suppliers, customers and institutions; a lack of support and belief from family or friends; limited sources of training in entrepreneurial skills and an unfriendly regulatory environment.

However, with increasing effort at improving the entrepreneurial “ecosystem”, an advent of relevant school curricula to support entrepreneurial competencies and focus on innovation is expected.

The Founder President of the Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs – Asia (CAYE-Asia), Rahul Mirchandani stresses the impact governments can have to improve entrepreneurship.

“Governments can help build dynamic youth entrepreneurship ecosystems with policy frameworks that serve as catalysts for building cross-border trade, facilitating access to finance, and incentivizing innovative best practices,” said Mirchandani, who adds: ” Young entrepreneurs must also be encouraged to co-create robust peer networks that connect their young businesses with the world.”