How to satisfy the 10 million Africans who enter the job market every year? To avoid the crisis, public authorities and investors are betting on the creation of businesses.
Over the next fifteen years, the continent will experience the fastest growing working age population in the world. Demographers speak of the demographic dividend, that is, of the mechanical decline in spending on the dependent population, freeing up resources for economic development.
But to take advantage of this opportunity, African countries face an immense challenge in terms of job creation. Already, 60% of young Africans are unemployed. And each year, more than 10 million young working people will enter the job market. The failure of governments and the private sector to meet their expectations could also be a source of political and social instability for the region and beyond. “All these young people on the street doing nothing, these are big problems in perspective,” summed up in 2015 Liberian Antoinette Sayeh, director of the Africa department of the IMF.
For a growing number of policy makers and donors, the promotion of business creation appears to be a solution to multiply the jobs that the continent so badly needs. “Over the next decade, the main economic opportunities will come from Africans who set up businesses, create jobs and wealth, and seize growth opportunities,” said Aeneas Chuma, Africa director of the International Organization in early March. work (ILO).
In sub-Saharan Africa, 60% of 18-35 year olds could start their own business.
“In a way, all of these experts are rediscovering America. On the continent, the public service and the private sector employ less than 10% of the active population, but the vast majority of the active work in the informal sector. And, very often, they have created their own job, it is self-capitalism, ”notes Paul Giniès, former director general of the International Institute for Water and Environment Engineering (2iE) in Ouagadougou. , now consultant and president of the education-training commission of the French Council of Investors in Africa (Cian).
According to the 2013 report of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor / Youth Business International (GEM / YBI) on youth entrepreneurship, among all regions of the world, sub-Saharan Africa indeed has the highest proportion (60%) of entrepreneurs potential business among 18-35 year olds. However, 32% of them are driven by necessity, which means that entrepreneurship is seen as a survival strategy, not an opportunity for doing business.
Financing and administration, main obstacles for young entrepreneurs
If entrepreneurship is still underdeveloped on the continent, it is because business creators face considerable difficulties: they struggle to access affordable financing as well as support and advice services, they face administrative obstacles and more generally a lack of encouragement from society as a whole.
“Too many young people in Africa still devote too much energy and resources to the service of their elders, even though the latter, through their experience and their networks, could be relevant supports to the ambition of their descendants”, said in a column published on a site of the French development agency, a few months ago, Franck Tognini, associate professor at the university of Lille-1, creator of a master in economic intelligence dispensed in Senegal, in Morocco and in Cameroon.
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The hiatus also comes from the abysmal gap between the needs of the private sector in terms of skills and the knowledge acquired by students at the end of their school curriculum. “In Africa, we should only be talking about vocational education, but it is still very marginal,” regrets Paul Giniès. In Burkina Faso, a survey carried out by the Permanent Secretariat of non-governmental organizations in 2014 on a database dating from 2009 and 2010 showed that less than 5% of 16-24 year olds had received technical or vocational training.
“It is absolutely necessary to change this situation because in some countries like Togo or Congo, the more you go to university, the less chance you have of finding a job. Providing a young person with real technical skills is making them a potential business manager capable of creating jobs, “notes the former director general of 2iE.
The acknowledgment of this failure of African school systems is also made by the public authorities. “Young graduates are the most affected by unemployment due to the inconsistency between the sectors offered and the needs of employers, as well as by the lack of stimulation of entrepreneurial capacities in the courses”, underlined, on April 14, Ibrahima Guèye , Secretary General of the Senegalese Ministry of Higher Education and Research.
But the mountain to be climbed by universities to change the game seems almost insurmountable as their means are ridiculous in view of the evolution of enrollments. “In Dakar, less than 15% of students at Cheikh-Anta-Diop University graduate in three years. The overstaffing – 90,000 students for 25,000 places – makes learning conditions very difficult “, estimated in 2014 Abdoul Alpha Dia, professor at the Higher Institute of Management (ISM) and at the University of Bambey.
Many promising initiatives for entrepreneurship
Regarding the promotion of entrepreneurship, States can nevertheless count on the growing involvement of the private sector. “Multinationals, who see Africa as a territory for perennial growth, realize that they cannot prosper without the development of an ecosystem of SMEs and SMIs,” observes Paul Giniès.
Orange supports each year over three months a handful of Ivorian start-ups through the Orange Fab program and participates, through its subsidiary Sonatel, in the funding of CTIC in Dakar, another project incubator dedicated to the digital world. Danone supports more than 10,000 small breeders in Morocco to secure its supply and helps its partners to increase their income.
More spectacularly, the Nigerian billionaire Tony Elumelu launched in 2015, through his foundation, a program endowed with 100 million dollars (around 80 million euros) over ten years to identify and train 10,000 start-ups. -up, to create 1 million jobs and $ 10 billion in annual revenue. In its second year, the initiative attracted more than 45,000 applications, mainly from Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda and Cameroon.
In terms of development institutions, the enhancement of entrepreneurship is also in tune with the times. Arrived at the head of the AfDB in May 2015, Akinwumi Adesina naturally focused on agriculture, a sector he knows well since he was previously responsible for it in the Nigerian government.
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The “Youth in Agribusiness” program, with a budget of $ 700 million, which will be implemented in twenty countries under the direction of national agencies with the support of organizations such as the Institute International of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) or the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (Agra), aims to offer professional integration opportunities to at least 800,000 young people.
This initiative includes the creation of 18,400 agri-start-ups providing decent employment for 154,000 Africans. According to IITA’s calculations, an incubator costing $ 713,000 could create between 103,000 and 175,000 jobs and generate income between $ 1.7 million and $ 3 million.
Will this type of program significantly contribute to reducing unemployment among young people? It is too early to make a final judgment on their effectiveness. “Obviously, given the number of new workers entering the job market, this will not be enough,” nonetheless anticipates Paul Giniès, who regrets that we often forget to assign performance objectives to these initiatives and that the public authorities and the private sector still participate in a too compartmentalized manner in their implementation.
To increase their impact, policies to promote entrepreneurship should also systematically be part of a broader vision, including for example, for multinationals, obligations to transfer skills, local production and use of suppliers in a number of sectors.
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