Addressing Africa Youth Unemployment through Industries without Smokestacks: A Synthesis on Prospects, Constraints and Policies

Young people between the ages 15 and 24 constitute roughly 20 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s population, making it the youngest continent in the world (African Union, 2019). While this trend is an opportunity for increased creativity and innovation, it is also a risk for many youths in the region not in education, employment, or training. And the number of young people continues to rise. The World Bank estimates that by 2050 half of the 1 billion people in sub-Saharan Africa will be under the age of 25, highlighting the importance of creating employment opportunities for Africa’s youth. In this paper, we will share deeper insights on the IWOSS sector in Africa and provide recommendations as we look ahead: Section 2 presents a review of crosscutting themes drawn from the country studies—Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, and Uganda—undertaken under the project.1 Section 3 seeks to answer the central research question of the project: Which IWOSS sectors offer the greatest potential for employment of Africa’s growing young population? Section 4 sets out the constraints to growth of IWOSS sectors, built around four drivers of industrial location that have largely shaped the global distribution of industry—with and without smokestacks. Section 6 sets out a number of policy recommendations to relieve the constraints to the growth of IWOSS sectors. Section 7 summarizes the main policy recommendations arising from the research, Section 8 deals with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on IWOSS, and Section 9 offers some concluding remarks.