Leaders of African states, business and labour heads are meeting in Johannesburg this week to assess the continent’s progress since adopting the International Labour Organisation’s “decent work agenda” and to fast-track growth, employment and poverty reduction. By OSIAME MOLEFE.
Unemployment , especially among young people, will top the issues on the agenda for the 12th ILO African regional conference, which starts today. While African economies have not been as severely affected by the global financial and economic crisis (the International Monetary Fund estimates growth for the region at 5.2% for 2011), Africa has failed to create jobs.
Before the global recession, most African countries were growing in excess of 5%, but despite the prodigious growth, unemployment has remained high and poverty continues unabated. Most of the continent’s youth unemployment hovers around the 25% mark. In South Africa, youths account for half of the unemployed and represent only a quarter of the workforce.
As witnessed in North Africa and in some Arab states, youth unemployment has the potential to disrupt political, economic and social systems. The stalled recovery of key export markets in the West threaten to further erode the Africa’s ability to fulfil its commitments under the ILO “decent work agenda” in Africa.
This is why, according to the ILO, the global economic crisis has, “added to an already long list of Africa’s development challenges, the main ones being poverty, the HIV/Aids pandemic, hunger, vulnerable employment, inequalities and political strife.”
The conference, to be opened by President Jacob Zuma, brings together role-players from each country to find ways to fast-track the seemingly incongruent tasks of growing the economy and employment while maintaining social cohesion, protecting the environment and maintaining international labour standards. A tough ask, but one which is necessary to change the conversation about the continent. DM
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