AfDB Urges Maximazation of Youth Workforce for West African Economic Recovery

AfDB

  • The African Development Bank (AfDB), in its recently released report, has called on West African countries to leverage their youth workforce to speed up the recovery of their post-COVID-19 economies.
  • The report disclosed that, as a result of the pandemic, growth in the region could continue to fall by as much as-4.3 per cent.
  • The results and policy recommendations contained in AfDB report provides comprehensive options for policymakers at both national and sub-regional levels to tackle the economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The African Development Bank (AfDB), in its recently released Regional Economic Outlook 2020,  has called on West African countries to leverage their youth workforce to speed up the recovery of their post-COVID-19 economies.

According to the Bank, growth in West Africa, which was projected to increase by 4.0 per cent by the end of the year, is now expected to contract by-2.0 per cent over the same period.

The report stated that, as a result of the pandemic, growth in the region could continue to fall by as much as-4.3 per cent, as countries that rely on oil and tourism for foreign exchange and fiscal revenues would face reduced fiscal space and increased external account imbalances, fueling a build-up of public debt.

Despite this, the report said that West Africa ‘s burgeoning youth population is offering a strategic workforce that could be utilised for jobs and economic growth in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that is crippling the continent and global economies.

Speaking during the report’s virtual launch, Marie-Laure Akin-Olugbade, Director-General, Regional Growth and Business Delivery Office for West Africa, said the region’s young population has provided opportunities to support drive economic recovery.

Nevertheless, she said the labour force participation rate for the working population had gradually decreased from 64.2 per cent in 2000 to 58.5 per cent in 2019 since the beginning of the millennium, adding that the study included policy proposals to tackle the current decline and reverse trends.

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Nigeria’s finance, budget and national planning minister, Zainab Ahmed, said the country was working with collaborators like AfDB on economic steps to reduce COVID-19 ‘s effect.

Likewise, Ghana’s finance minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, said the pandemic’s economic impacts on the region had demonstrated the need for economies to concentrate on building strategic sector stability and accelerating economic integration.

Senior Director, Nigeria Country Department, AfDB, Ebrima Faal, said in his remarks that collaboration with global technology firms could create opportunities for research and development to improve future skills growth.

The report of the Regional Economic Outlook outlined developments in the area with a particular focus on “Skills development and education for the Workforce of the Future,” and also examined the effects of the pandemic COVID-19.

The region ranked low in the human capital index according to the report, which tests the mobilization of citizens’ economic resources and has implications for the country’s capacity to accept the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

Although West African countries have made improvements in school enrolment over the last two decades, retention rates remained low with poor outcomes especially in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Yet, the increasing demand for these skills would define the future of work in view of the unfolding technological revolution.

While West African countries have made improvements in school enrollment over the past two decades, retention rates have remained low with poor results, especially in science, technology, engineering, and math. And, in view of the ongoing technological revolution, the growing need for those skills will determine the future of work.

The report stated that policies need to be put in place to promote investments in digital technology to meet the demand for digital services; build opportunities for private sector investment in skills development; and increase public education spending to enhance the skills of the labour force in the region.

The report urged countries in the region to bolster their health care systems and increase funding to train and equip frontline health workers.“Importantly, enhancing healthcare preparedness and building early surveillance and preventive mechanisms are crucial in saving lives. A coordinated regional approach may be more effective than fragmented country-level interventions to avoid the spread of infections across borders,” the report stated.

The results and policy recommendations contained in the Regional Economic Outlook provide comprehensive options for policymakers at both national and sub-regional levels to tackle the challenges of sustainable economic growth through the development of skills for the future of work after the pandemic.

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