By Thandisizwe Mgudlwa
Africa’s regions are looking closely at lessons from the Northern counterparts.
In December 2012, The African Development Bank organised a meeting of stakeholders to address Youth Unemployment.
This move was in Cooperation with the Social Fund for Development at High-Level Dialogue in Cairo, Egypt.
The AfDB hosted a high-level policy dialogue chaired by Prime Minister Hisham Kandil, under the theme of “Youth Employment: Building the Future.”
AfDB being one of the region’s top financial institutions, is partnering with the Egyptian Social Fund for Development (SFD) to find ways of promoting youth employment across the country and North African nations.
Orgnizers confirmed that the event brought together key Bank executives with a variety of important decision-makers from the Egyptian government, research organizations and youth employment experts, which include: Dr. Mthuli Ncube, AfDB Vice-President and Chief Economist; Dr. Sakala Zondo, AfDB Vice-President, Country, Programs and Policy; Dr. John Page, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Global Economy and Development Program; Dr. Heba Handoussa, Managing Director of the Egyptian Network for Integrated Development; Dr. Omneia Helmy, Director of the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies; and Dr. Farouk Al-Okdah, Governor, Central Bank of Egypt.
AfDB also used the occasion to launch the Bank’s 2012 flagship report:
The African Economic Outlook. Focusing on youth employment, the report outlines the numerous positive long-term effects the employment of young people has upon economic growth.
Commenting before the conference Dr. Sibry Tapsoba, AfDB’s Resident Representative for Egypt said, “We want to discuss the policies, programs and initiatives that Egypt could implement in order to help facilitate greater opportunities for youth, which makes up the foundation for economic growth in the future,” said Topsoba, “We know that Egyptian youth are struggling to match their skills with fulfilling careers, which is why we are making this issue a strategic priority for the Bank.”
Following the opening session by Dr. Hisham Kandil, an analysis of policies and programs designed to improve conditions for young people seeking work and a discussion on the private sector’s role in job creation took place. The day was to end with the presentation of the 2012 African Economic Outlook report.
“This conference is an important opportunity to shed light on one of the SFD’s main priorities. We provide financing for projects and initiatives as well as devote resources to tackling issues such as employment, job-creation and poverty alleviation,” said Ms. Ghada Waly, the SFD’s Managing Director. “We want to go beyond this and directly target youth by capitalizing on the experience of other countries and experts in this field. I must stress that it is imperative to sustain South-South cooperation between Southern nations as well.”
In organizing this event, AfDB and SFD hopes to outline a number of priority initiatives that can be implemented in the short term.
Tapsoba added that AfDB has a wealth of experience in this field developed via peer-to-peer learning, sharing of best practices and similar AfDB policy dialogues. AfDB plans to build on its youth employment strategies that involve supporting investment in higher education, science, technical and vocational training; as well as acting as a mediator to facilitate public-private sector partnerships in this area.
It is worth mentioning that youth unemployment is a global problem that is particularly acute in the Middle East and North Africa.
According to the United Nation’s International Labour Organization, more than 25 per cent of all youth in this region are unemployed. This number is slated to rise in the near future if conditions do not change. There are no concrete statistics on youth unemployment in Egypt; however, experts believe the rate follows regional trends.
Unemployment was one of the key issues driving the Arab Spring and will continue to be a central theme as these nations move forward.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) is Africa’s premier development finance institution established in 1964 to mobilize resources for the economic and social development of its 53 regional member countries with a capital of US $100 billion. The Bank’s membership includes 24 non-regional member countries bringing the total number of member countries to 77. The Bank has been financing development activities in it regional member countries through its three windows of financing: the African Development Bank (AfDB) window, the African Development Fund (ADF) window and the Nigerian Trust Fund (NTF) window. In the first quarter of 2012, the AfDB Group approved 60 loans and grants amounting to US $5.52 billion.
Furthermore, the SFD was established by Presidential Decree in 1991 as a socio-economic safety net to alleviate poverty, combat unemployment, improve living conditions and accelerate comprehensive socio-economic development. It supports job-creating small and micro enterprises (MSEs) and provides an integrated package of financial and non-financial services for start-up entrepreneurs.
SFD also implements an assortment of labour-intensive public works, basic infrastructure human and community development projects targeting impoverished areas and cooperates with the private sector and small local contractors in all the governorates of Egypt.
Furthermore, SFD works with civil society organizations and NGOs and considers them as major development partners. Hence, it provides them necessary finance and builds their managerial, technical and institutional capacities as well. Within this framework, SFD has funded around 1,000 NGOs.
Since its inception, SFD has created around 355,000 job opportunities affecting 1.3 million beneficiaries.