Youth Unemployment and Education in Africa

Cross-linked at Bertelsmann Stiftung – Future Challenges’ site

In the year 2005, Africa’s youth unemployment was at 21 percent, much higher than the world average of 14.4 percent and second only to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s 25.6 percent.


Youth Population by Economic Activity Status in Sub-Saharan Africa, 1997 and 2007- Credit: ILO

Youth unemployment in Africa is a problem of alarming proportions precisely because 65 percent of the continent’s population is under the age of 24, with over 40 percent of the total population below the age of 16, and about 25 percent between the ages 15 and 24. According to the International Labour Office (ILO), youth make up approximately 36.9 percent of the total working-age population and about 60 percent of Africa’s unemployed are youth.

While Africa’s nations have seen economic growth that outstrips other continents, the high share of young people (ages 15–24) who are unemployed has the potential to undermine that growth. In addition to the economic costs of youth unemployment, there is also a social cost. As youth face long-term or cyclical unemployment, they can become disaffected and dis-invested in their own communities. This can lead to higher crime rates and greater involvement in underground economic activity, as well as social unrest.

A 2008 World Bank report entitled “Youth and Employment in Africa: The Potential, the Problem, the Promise” indicates that access to education is still a major hurdle. For example, in Kenya and Uganda, school fees were too costly for poor families, and enrollment rates were low. However, after Kenya and Uganda eliminated the school fees, completion rates for fourth and fifth graders from impoverished families increased initially.

In the case of Kenyan schools, the elimination of school fees was not enough, as detailed by a Center for Global Development working paper entitled “Why Did Abolishing Fees Not Increase Public School Enrollment in Kenya?

Even where school enrollment increased, schools tended not to hire more teachers to accommodate their growing student body, resulting in lower qualities of education. Another factor- particularly in rural areas- is the the proximity of schools. The cost (in time or money- especially in terms of fuel use) to get to and from school is prohibitive to many parents.

As a continent, Africa has a long way to go in terms of educating, training its youth and providing opportunities to be economically active. Between heads of states who are not beholden to constitutional tenure clauses, the failure to make education generally accessible and relevant, and the burgeoning influx of migrant workers from Europe, Africa’s youth face a number of challenges. As Africa’s nations grow economically, we must be mindful of the fact that growing GDPs are not synonymous with less socio-economic inequality.

In fact, John Githongo, chief executive of Inuka Kenya Trust and chairman of the Africa Institute for Governing With Integrity and Kenya’s former secretary for governance and ethics, points out that as growth speeds up, so does inequality. In light of youth unemployment on the continent of Africa, this has huge implications on the social and political stability of Africa’s nations.


What can be done to lower unemployment rates among Africa’s youth?

How can we better equip our youth for today’s labor market?

How can we enable African youth to become job creators without saddling them with debt?

Addressing African Youths’ Periods of Inactivity Between Educational Attainment & Employment

Cross-linked with Bertelsmann Stiftung – Future Challenges

Sixty-five percent of Africa’s population is under the age of 24, with over 40 percent of the total population below the age of 16, and about 25 percent between the ages 15 and 24. The issue of education is a recurring theme in conversations about Africa’s youth. World Bank data shows that in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, and Mozambique more than 75 percent of out-of-school youth have no “education at all.”

In a study of 13 African countries, findings showed that rural youth are less likely to be in school, and urban youth (except in Kenya) tended to have greater educational opportunities. However, rural youth often joined the workforce earlier and were less likely to be unemployed, compared to their urban counterparts (except in Kenya and Ethiopia) who saw longer periods of inactivity as they transitioned from school to work. In a 2008 World Bank executive summary entitled “Youth in Africa’s Labor Market, it was noted that:

In 8 of the 13 countries reviewed (Cameroon, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, São Tomé and Principe, and Zambia), young people face about five years of inactivity before finding work; youth in Uganda are inactive for more than three years on average. Continue reading

Why Invisible Child’s #Kony2012 Campaign Gets No Applause From Me

In short: #Kony2012 #StopKony misrepresents N. Uganda, spreads misinformation abt Kony/the LRA, denies Africans’ agency and is imperialist. It raises the perennial question of “Who represents Africa?”

For example: This tweet (one of many prime examples) succinctly exemplifies all that I critique in this piece:

In fact, it reminded me of my post-colonial readings of Karl Marx. Reading this quote from his “The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte: “Sie können sich nicht vertreten, sie müssen vertreten werden” spurred me deeper into my anti-colonialist, post-colonialist fervor. Literally translated from German, “Those who cannot represent themselves must themselves be represented,” the quote revealed to me just how insidious the narrative of “saving” and “speaking for” the subaltern is.

HOW DOES THIS TIE INTO Invisible Children’s #Kony2012 CAMPAIGN?

If “awareness” is the payoff for paternalistic, imperialist, “white man’s burden” NGO campaigns, I don’t want it. (Just the name “Invisible Children” denies and co-opts the agency of Ugandans- many of whom have organized to protect child soldiers…). I stand by this: if you’re more comfortable talking about Africans than you are talking to an African person, you really should not be in the business of representing Africa. Furthermore, if you cannot find an African nation on a map, let alone acknowledge Africans’ agency, you should not be providing “solutions” or “aid. Certainly, if you think that Uganda is in Central Africa, you should not be disseminating (mis)information that could have implications on policy.

Presumably, this campaign is supposed to raise awareness in the international community of Joseph Kony and lead to his arrest and/or death. The assumption is that taking down the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army will eliminate the problems. Thing is, Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army are symptoms of corrupt governance. Invisible Children’s video strangely omits Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s complicity in the horrors of the conflict that began in the late 1980s in Northern Uganda at the beginning of his (prolonged) presidency. Clearly, the international justice community is aware of Joseph Kony, because his name has been on top of the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s “most wanted” list for nearly a decade. Not to mention the fact that the United States armed forces have made several attempts at fighting the LRA and killing Joseph Kony, all of which resulted in the displacement of Sudanese and Congolese civilians as the LRA scattered about Central Africa.

[Also, I suggest a little light research into Invisible Children’s spending practices.] Continue reading

The Great Land Rush: Land Grabs & Food Security

Crosslinked at Bertelsmann Stiftung – Future Challenges Organization

The Great Land Rush and Food Security

What is land?

Many of us don’t think about what land really means. An economist might define land as the totality  of natural resources in a given area, while a lawyer might focus on  land, water and mineral rights. But a farmer’s answer might be simpler: land is the farmer’s capital. Land is the soil and  water utilized in the production of crops for the local or global market. In the context of an increasingly globalized world, land rights are paramount, particularly in the Global South (Asia, South America, Africa and Australia). As governments and multinational corporations buy up land, small farmers and indigenous groups are edged out.

A Global Phenomenon

A 2010 World Bank study showed that 110 million acres (44,515,420.7 hectares) of farmland worldwide were sold or leased in the first eleven months of 2009 alone;  70 percent of these land deals were concentrated in Mali, Libya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Madagascar and Mozambique.

Before 2008, land was sold or leased at an average annual rate of  10 million acres (4,046,856.42 hectares). However, in the last four years alone, nearly 148 million acres (about 60 million hectares) of land on the continent of Africa has been acquired by international investors and government bodies. This surge in land grabbing and speculation deserves attention because it poses a grave threat to regional food security, indigenous land and water rights.

These land deals are not just confined to the continent of Africa (which holds nearly two-thirds of the world’s remaining arable land). In the Middle East,  Bahrain has seen political upheaval and protest in the wake of a major land deal within its borders. White South African farmers are buying up land in Georgia while in the Ukraine, the state is planning to buy up 30 percent of the nation’s land to bolster the country’s food security. In Australia, in a similar move a Chinese company has offered to buy 80,000 hectares of farmland.

In one of Asia‘s poorest nations, 15 percent of Cambodian land has been signed over to private companies (made easier by the Khmer Rouge’s  prohibition of private property and subsequent burning of all land titles). In South America, the Brazilian government has shown its openness to greater foreign investment in rural land. In today’s globalized world economy, these land deals have far-reaching effects.

Why the rush for land?

Factors driving the land grab include population pressure, the burgeoning middle class in the Global South and its heightened demand for foodstuffs, in concert with individual countries’ concerns over food security. As ready access to food is essential to a politically stable nation, food security can have major political effects.

This was seen in 2009 in Madagascar when a land deal with a South Korean conglomerate that would have handed over half of Madagascar‘s arable land was met with mass protests and led to the overthrow of then-President Ravalomanana. Continue reading

Securing the Rights and Protections of Africa’s Sex Workers

[Crosslinked at Future Challenges Organization‘s blog]

Sex work is a business that requires only one‘s bodily capital. The economics of scarcity are often a factor in making sex work a viable and lucrative option for women and men.  Because sex work is illegal in 37 African nations, sex workers are often criminalized and subjected to harassment at the hands of policemen and government officials. In addition to criminalization, the migration that often accompanies sex work makes it harder to gather viable statistics on how many sex workers there are within one nation, or even track their transnational movement. In Southern and East Africa, sex work often occurs at the borders where bureaucratic processes leave truck drivers waiting for permission to enter the country. The wait can last from hours to days. Also, the sex trade is a complementary industry to mining industry, where mine workers are sometimes live away from their spouses and families in compounds.

Challenges include mobility, criminalization, language differences, cultural norms and entrenched traditions. However, this has not stopped sex workers across Africa from organizing collectively to raise awareness and campaign for an end to violence against sex workers.The African Sex Workers Alliance  (ASWA) is working in Uganda, Mozambique, South Africa and Kenya to decriminalize sex work and expand the rights of sex workers. In Kenya, the African Sex Workers Alliance marked December 17th, 2010 as the first International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. In Abuja, Nigeria, sex workers demonstrated for their rights and protections on March 3rd, which is International Sex Worker Rights Day.

In South Africa, where prostitution has been illegal since 1957, sex workers report regular harassment by the police. The Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT) is following up on all cases alleging harassment or wrongful arrest by the police. The Sisonke Sex Worker Movement, based in Johannesburg, had a large number of calls from sex workers who were arrested or assaulted by South African police following the March 3rd demonstration for the International Sex Worker Rights Day. In Johannesburg, Cape Town and Mussina, South African sex workers took to the streets and demonstrated with signs and red umbrellas. However, after the protests, some sex workers faced harassment from the police. Some reports included demands for bribes in the form of sexual favors or money in order to avoid arrest. Kyomya Macklean, South Africa‘s regional coordinator for the African Sex Worker Alliance, stated:

“People who brutalize sex workers do so with the hope that sex workers will feel too afraid to come out and report these events. Can these police officers not see that these women have feelings and that they were really scared or do they simply see sex workers as an object? When you kicked her do you not have any sense of remorse and concern for the victim or is this something that brings you enjoyment, a malicious and tic violence that comes from acting as a law unto yourself and feeling power, control and pleasure in hurting the other and reducing them to feeling helpless? But I want you to know, we will not be turned into objects and we will have the courage to be powerful and seek justice and demand we are treat with respect. You will not take taking away and undermine our capacity to experience ourselves in powerful and independent women.”

HIV/AIDS and Access to Healthcare

The HIV prevalance among sex workers in some nations in sub-Saharan Africa are up to 20 times higher than that of the general population. In Southern and East Africa, HIV prevalence in the general population is much higher than that in West Africa. However, up to a third of West African sex workers are living with HIV or AIDS. In Ghana, female sex workers, their clients and the sexual partners of those clients made up 33 percent of new reported HIV infections in 2009. This figure was 10 percent in Uganda, and 14 percent in Kenya.

The criminalization of homosexuality (it‘s a capital crime in Mauritania, Sudan and the Central African Republic) makes it difficult to find reliable statistics on HIV prevalence among male and transgender sex workers. One study in Mombasa, Kenya found that less than half of male sex workers interviewed consistently used condoms with their male clients. Condom usage among male sex workers was similarly low with female clients.

In Kenya, there is a condom shortage. The Kenyan government stopped importing condoms produced in China because they were of poor quality. The US‘ Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief has sent 45 million to Kenya. According to Peter Cherutich, the Deputy Director of Kenya‘s National AIDS Control Programme, the government signed a long-term agreement with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFP) to supply 180 million condoms in May. Additionally, female condoms, while convenient and effective in preventing pregnancy, are cost-prohibitive.

It is clear that accessible, good-quality healthcare is needed- especially for sex workers who have contracted sexually transmitted infections, which are co-factors for contracting HIV and for sex workers who are living with HIV/AIDS. This care extends beyond services like HIV counseling, testing, and therapy. Effective healthcare for stigmatized and criminalized populations like sex workers hinge heavily on the sensitivity of the personnel in the medical care center. Staff attitudes are instrumental to making patients feel as though they can ask for much-needed services without judgment. Additionally, waiting times, language barriers and environments that are not child-friendly can be impediments to vital healthcare.


Sex work is very risky on several fronts. Legally, sex work and sex workers are criminalized. Socially, attitudes toward sex work tend to excuse violence and abuse levied against sex workers. Physically, there is a risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections and diseases like Hepatitis A, B, Syphilis and the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). In addition, the overlap between drug use and sex work increases the likelihood of spreading HIV through injection-drug use infection.

Harm reduction methodologies include peer education, training in condom-use negotiating skills, safety training for street-based sex workers and community-based child protection networks. Harm reduction is just what the name implies- sensitive, responsive, non-judgmental approaches to education, empowerment and equipping within marginalized or stigmatized populations- in this case, sex workers.  The emphasis on education, empowerment and equipping is significant because it recognizes sex workers are individuals capable of making choices in their best interest with the information that is available to them. Rather than positioning them as victims, harm reduction approaches tend to focus on whole individuals with particular needs.

Among Chadian sex workers, peer-to-peer education and counseling has proven to be the most cost-effective form of outreach and empowerment. It is also one of the most sustainable approaches, because as veteran sex workers counsel less-experienced sex workers Continue reading

Article: The Overlap Between Human Trafficking and HIV AIDS in Africa

[Cross-linked at Future Challenges Organization]

There has not been very much discussion on the overlap of human trafficking and HIV/AIDS on the continent of Africa.  Both human trafficking and HIV/AIDS are recognized as impediments to economic development on the continent of Africa.  HIV/AIDS is acknowledged as one of the push factors for human trafficking in southern Africa, in addition to poverty and undereducation. The  HIV/AIDS epidemic has disproportionately affected marginalized groups- particularly women and children.  Subsequently, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among victims of human trafficking is higher than that of the general population, and because of their status, these victims often do not have access to the medical care that they require.

The fact is that Africa is a very young continent.  Some 60% of its population is under the age of 24. Additionally, the continent of Africa has over 14 million AIDS orphans. These children live with particular vulnerabilities. As children, they are already susceptible to exploitation (human trafficking, in particular), as one or more of their parents is deceased. Children who have lost at least one parent to HIV/AIDS are more susceptible to traffickers’ manipulations. For example, older children trying to feed their siblings are most likely to be lured by a trafficker’s fraudulent job offer. Continue reading

Article: How Trade Agreements Affect Access to Affordable AIDS Treatments in Africa

Crosslinked at Future Challenges Organization

(Macrotrends: Pandemics + Globalization)

„Because TRIPS (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights)allowed countries to issue compulsory licences only for domestic use, however, countries without local drug-manufacturing industries, including 37 in Africa, were unable to use compulsory licences to keep medicines affordable.“ („A ‘crisis in waiting’ for AIDS patients:Trade rules will make it harder to get cheap generic medicines)

In the year 2009, an estimated 1.3 million adults and children died as a result of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. African women and girls are particularly vulnerable to HIV. As about 76% of all HIV-positive women in the world live in Africa south of the Sahara. Since the beginning of the epidemic, more than 15 million Africans have died from AIDS.

While access to antiretroviral treatment is beginning to mitigate the toll of AIDS, fewer than half of African AIDS patients are receiving the treatment.  In 2009, only 37% of AIDS patients have access to antiretroviral treatments, compared to just 2% in 2002. According to the UNAIDS factsheet, between 2004 and 2009, AIDS-related deaths decreased by 20% in sub-Saharan Africa.

HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths are on the decline among children on the African continent. In southern Africa, between 2004 and 2009, the number of children under 15 who became newly infected with HIV was reduced by 32% (fell from 190 000 in 2004 to 130 000 in 2009). Between 2005 and 2009, the percentage of pregnant women living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa who received antiretroviral drugs to prevent transmission of HIV to their children increased from 15% to 54%. Continue reading