The jobs gap: making inclusive growth work in Africa

On Monday, November 6, the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council, in partnership with the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, hosted a panel discussion on how governments and the private sector can tackle Africa’s jobs gap. The event coincided with the US launch of the Institute’s new report: The Jobs Gap: Making Inclusive Growth Work in Africa.

Atlantic Council Vice President and Africa Center Director Dr. J. Peter Pham welcomed guests and described the scale of the jobs challenge in Africa: by 2040, Africa’s labor market is expected to grow to 1.1 billion people, but stubbornly high unemployment rates and a lack of jobs threaten to undermine this massive economic potential.

The report’s author, Mr. Jonathan Said, is head of the Inclusive Growth and Private Sector Development Practice at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. He began by identifying key challenges to accurately understanding—and responding to—the jobs gap in Africa, including resource shortages, competing priorities, and a lack of governmental capacity to implement. He also outlined the report’s recommendations, which center around private sector development and investment in trade-oriented sectors that are competitive in the global marketplace. He also stressed the importance of strengthening “islands of effectiveness,” or agencies that can implement, coordinate, and guide sector strategies. Lastly, he stressed the need for African governments to create and execute long-term economic strategies, and set appropriate timelines and expectations to accompany them. Investors and international donors, he noted, can assist in strengthening government capacity to achieve those strategies.

A discussion, moderated by Africa Center Senior Fellow Aubrey Hruby, followed Said’s remarks and included Ms. Anabel González, senior director of the Trade and Competitiveness Practice at the World Bank, and Ms. Helen Hai, CEO of the Made in Africa Initiative. Panelists emphasized that context- and sector-specific country economic strategies are needed to create jobs, stressing the importance of using a sector’s “value proposition” to court private investors. Panelists also highlighted the potential of manufacturing, but suggested that job growth does not have to occur solely in the manufacturing sector—agribusiness, tourism, and even the creative industries have the potential to create substantial job and GDP growth across the continent