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The scourge of the youth unemployment (The Lost generation)

The security of Africa's development is under threat if the rising phenomenon of jobless growth and high youth unemployment is not addressed

In a posting on 28 June 2013, I highlighted the tragedy of youth unemployment in Europe: ‘Europe's unemployed youths face years trapped in a spiral of poverty and exclusion’

“In April 2013, 5.627 million young persons (under 25) were unemployed in the EU-27, of whom 3.624 million were in the euro area. Compared with April 2012, youth unemployment rose by 100 000 in the EU-27 and by 188 000 in the euro area. In April 2013, the youth unemployment rate was 23.5 % in the EU-27 and 24.4 % in the euro area, compared with 22.6 % in both zones in April 2012. In April 2013 the lowest rates were observed in Germany (7.5 %), Austria (8.0 %) and the Netherlands (10.6 %), and the highest in Greece (62.5 % in February 2013), Spain (56.4 %), Portugal (42.5 %) and Italy (40.5 %).”

In all, almost 15 million Europeans below the age of 30 are neither in employment, nor in education or training, a measure tagged with the ungainly acronym ‘NEET’.

Today, I wish to shed light on the tragedy of youth unemployment in Africa, a continent so rich in people, tradition, history, culture, natural resources and more.

As Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said, “Africa's hope lies in its youth: Young people really are dreamers. They dream of a better kind of world". Addressing the young people at a forum in Bangladesh he told them: “Don't be affected by the cynicism of 'oldies' like us. Go ahead and dream of a different kind of world. How can we continue to spend billions on instruments of death and destruction when a small part of that could ensure children everywhere have clean water? You young people are our hope."

Africa is the only continent with a significantly growing youth population. In less than three years, 41 percent of the world's youth will be African and yet almost half the world's out-of-school children live in sub-Saharan Africa. The security of Africa's development is under threat if the rising phenomenon of jobless growth and high youth unemployment is not addressed.

In short, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the African Development Bank, people under the age of 25 account for about 60 percent of total unemployment in sub-Saharan Africa. On average, 72 percent of the youth population lives below the $2 a day poverty line, according to a World Bank survey.


‘Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom’ -Nelson Mandela

‘Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace’ -Albert Schweitzer

1- To make poverty history is mainly mobilized around the concept of justice. In many cases, challenging injustice is the first step towards the elimination of poverty. To do justice is to feel the pain and to become one with the sufferer; is to ask fundamental questions about the roots of injustice and to fight for their removals. It is then that poverty can be eliminated.

2- All manners of policies and theories have been tested on Africa. All failing and all bringing Africans a bitter harvest. This is so, because what has been tried has not been in harmony with Africa’s civilization, spirituality and culture. Without a deep understanding of these, we cannot begin to find development strategies that are going to work in Africa or anywhere else in the world. “One size fits all” economic strategy of development- obsessed only with economic reform, an ever expanding free-market liberalism, structural adjustments, privatization, deregulation and more of the same- has been nothing but a global tragedy. It would be an affront to our humanity and decency to ignore this.

3- Material wellbeing, economic growth and wealth creation are important. But, to create a world of true happiness, peace and wellbeing, wealth must be created for a noble reason. Economics, commerce and trade, without a true understanding of the aspirations of the people it is affecting, cannot bring justice to all. Social transformation can be achieved only when unselfish love, spirituality and a rigorous pursuit of justice are embraced. Moreover, Millennium Development Goals, Commission for Africa recommendations and more will only be achieved when unselfish love and the pursuit of justice guides the motivations, not more free trade or more privatization for example. Here the wise words of Albert Einstein ring true: “The world cannot get out of its current state of crisis with the same thinking that got it there in the first place”.

4- We need a “Spiritual Revolution” so that as Archbishop William Temple once so eloquently remarked, “The art of government in fact is the art of so ordering life that self-interest prompts what justice demands”. If we truly want to change the world for the better, all of us, the politicians, business community, workers, men and women, young and old, must truly become better ourselves. We must share a common understanding of the potential for each one of us to become self-directed, empowered and active in defining this time in the world as an opportunity for positive change and healing. We can achieve a culture of peace by giving thanks, spreading joy, sharing love and understanding, seeing miracles, discovering goodness, embracing kindness and forgiveness, practicing patience, teaching tolerance, encouraging laughter, celebrating and respecting the diversity of cultures and religions and peacefully resolving conflicts. We must each of us become an instrument of peace.

5- We must affirm that economics is, above all, concerned with human well-being and happiness in society and with care for the Earth. This cannot be separated from moral and spiritual considerations. The idea of a “value-free” economics is spurious. It demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of what it means to be a human being.

In all, if the above five steps are adhered to, then, in a natural and harmonious way, the right economic policies and models will present themselves, enabling us to overcome poverty, injustice, and to create employment opportunities for all, young and old.

* Kamran Mofid PhD (ECON) is the Founder, Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative (GCGI)