Elumelu targets talented young Africans in SMEs with $100 million jobs fund


African Development Bank (AfDB) job for youths strategy has got a boost as Tony Elumelu Foundation sets aside a $100 million jobs fund targeted at talented young Africans in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

This comes on the heels of the AfDB Group plans to create 25 million jobs for youths in the next 10 years with $5 billion facility.

Tony Elumelu, chairman, Heirs Holdings, was among the panellists at the “jobs for African youths” session at the ongoing annual meetings of the AfDB holding in the Zambian capital, Lusaka.

Other panellists at the session include: Ibrahim Mo, chairperson, Mo Ibrahim Foundation; Uhuru Kenyatta, president, Republic of Kenya; Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Thomas Silberhorn, parliamentary state secretary, Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany; Akinwunmi Adesina, president, AfDB Group, and Carlos Lopes, executive secretary, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

Elumelu, who recognises that the youths are Africa’s greatest assets, used the platform to seek for a collective approach in reducing the rate of youth unemployment, adding, “Government alone cannot create the jobs for the youths.”

The panellists sought among others key issues bothering on how to leverage Africa’s opportunity to create sustainable jobs for youths in agriculture; how Africa can launch an industrial transformation agenda that promote inclusive growth and create sustainable jobs for youths; how Africa can leverage its opportunity to create sustainable jobs for youth in ICT, and the needed skills for Africa’s structural transformation and how these skills can be developed.

Ibrahim Mo said, “The problem with youths’ job creation is that of governance and focus. Only 2 percent of African youths embrace agriculture. The question now is who is going to bail Africa if not the youths. As a continent, we are very good at wasting our natural resources. We have to look at the issue of education and training in line with the needs of the economy.

“The solution to youth unemployment requires a collective effort from both the private and public sectors. Government alone cannot tackle unemployment. All of us have to be involved. I believe that the solution is in SMEs financing. Africans are now embracing agriculture –we need to find a way of encouraging them,” Mo told the audience.

“For the youths, we need economic transformation policies that will ensure effective states. We have identified a huge skills gap that does not allow the youths respond to market demand,” Lopes said.

“Most of the new jobs for youths are created by SMEs. We have to find jobs not only the academics but also for the non-academics. Entrepreneurs should tie their programmes towards jobs creation for youths,” Silberhorn said.

“The future of African youths lies in a more prosperous Africa. Unemployment among African youths is the most serious problem facing Africa. The solution is not outside but within the continent. We have to change the mindset, but the greatest mindset shift is to have confidence in yourself,” Adesina said.

The bank has also volunteered to assist the Tony Elumelu Foundation in identifying skilful young Africans that should benefit from the Foundation’s job fund as only 2,000 young entrepreneurs qualified to access the fund out of about 80,000 applications processed within two years.

Africa remains the world’s youngest region, with the median age of the population under 25 years old. If properly harnessed, this growing working age population could drive Africa’s economic transformation. Rather, the majority of youths in Africa do not have stable economic opportunities even as they face roughly double the unemployment rate of adults, with significant variations across African countries.


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