Africa’s 'Youth Employment' Crisis is actually a 'Missing Jobs' Crisis
The contribution of this paper is to bring together evidence from a wide range of sources; indicate where the evidence supports the current policy orthodoxy and where it does not; and map out an alternative policy narrative and policy landscape. There is no doubt that too many young people have difficulty finding work that provides a satisfactory livelihood. However, we argue that this is only one aspect of the broader employment crisis. In other words, the problem is with the economy and “missing jobs” for everyone—not just for young people. Below, we critically interrogate the dominant narrative about youth employment in Sub-Saharan Africa, looking across five dimensions: demography, violence and civil unrest, training and skills, entrepreneurship in the urban service economy, and the rural economy. This dominant narrative may be summed up as something like: there are (too) many young people in sub-Saharan Africa; when “idle,” they are easily drawn into crime and violence; they can’t get the jobs that are available because they lack technical and soft skills and therefore need training; they are innately innovative, and therefore their entrepreneurial potential needs to be awakened; and they are averse to agriculture. This narrative suggests that the crisis is very much “youth-specific” : Young people are both the problem and the solution, and thus youth-specific or youth targeted interventions must be prioritized.