Friday, November 04, 2011
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6th African Economic Conference: Youth Employment within the new African Green Economy Agenda.

Friday, November 04, 2011
By: Esther Agbarakwe

Esther Agbarakwe (far left) at the
6th African Economic Conference
According to the United Nations, Africa is well poised to take advantage of a host of opportunities on the continent for building a ‘green economy,’ one that generates decent jobs in an environmentally sustainable way. 

The concept of the green economy is one of the several closely related constructs that have emerged in recent years to enhance convergence among the three pillars of sustainable development. According to the UNEP Green Economy Report, a green economy is defined as an economy that results in improved human well-being and reduced inequalities over the long term, while not exposing future generations to significant environmental risks and ecological scarcities. In its simplest expression, a green economy can be thought of as one which is low carbon, resource efficient, socially-inclusive, and that protects and enhances biodiversity and ecosystem services.

But is how will all this potential be harvested for the benefit of Africa’s citizens and in a way that promotes stability in Africa and beyond? How will the millions of African youth find peace and stability through job opportunities which has been seriously promoted as one of the results of this ambitious transition to green Economy?
So I packed my bags and traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to participate at the 6th Annual African Economic Conference on the invitation of UN Economic Commission for Africa, African Development Bank and UNDP to share the views of African Youth and to speak at a special session on the Role of the state in promoting Green Economy. 

The Conference, which started from the 25th to the 28thOctober, 2011 had “Green Economy and Structural Transformation’ as the theme. Green Economy being one of the themes of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012 (Rio+20), which was decided at the The UN General Assembly Resolution 64/236, to convene a summit 20 years after the Rio Earth Summit with the aim of reviewing progress in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, deliberate on new and emerging challenges and reinvigorate the political will for sustainable development. The two themes of the conference are “A green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication”, and “The institutional framework for sustainable development. During the Opening Plenary, The Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr. Jean Ping, said the theme of the meeting was very timely and will help Africa’s preparations for the COP17 negotiations later this year in Durban, South Africa; and the Rio + 20 meeting in Brazil in June 2012.

While participants were made to understand that African leaders have already embraced the green economy concept as exemplified in several declarations and resolutions, namely: the 3rd African Ministerial Conference on Financing for Development (May, 2009); the 13th Session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) of June 2010; the 1st Pan African Biodiversity Conference (September 2010); the 7th African Development Forum (October 2010), and most recently, the 18th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union (January 2011), I on the other hand was planning and coordinating with other African youths via social media on how to inform the participants that African youth are ready to support government efforts but want Government to make reforms and also understand that African Youth will hold govt. accountable if the Jobs are not created for them in this new green economy agenda on the context of the three pillars of sustainable development: Health, Economic and Environmental sustainability.

From the recent uprising in North Africa to anxiety over the prospect of more protests by young people throughout other African region, youth unemployment and underemployment is increasingly recognized as a potential trigger for social instability in other world regions. Africa in particular faces demographic challenges as its population of young people ages 15 to 24 increases and access to secure jobs continues to be problematic. In addition, the global financial crisis threatens to further strain labor markets and exacerbate a tenuous situation for Africa's youth. 

Africa has the fastest-growing and most youthful population in the world. Over 20 percent of Africa's population is between the ages of 15 to 24 and, since over 40 percent of Africa's population is under 15 years of age, that number is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. According to the International Labour Office, youth make up as much as 36 percent of the total working-age population and three in five of Africa's unemployed are youth.

So does Green Economy bring hope to African youths seeking Jobs? Speaking at the Special Session on the Role of the State in promoting Green Economy, African Youths and experts urge government to ensure that decent Jobs are indeed created for Africa’s youths and not use the notion of technology transfers and innovation to give jobs to non-Africans employed to help Africa transits to a green economy. African government and development partners needs to look inwards and access what technological potential and innovation exist among African’s youths, what area need improvement and how can the various ‘crude’ innovations across Africa can be harnessed towards an inclusive green economy development agenda. 

African youth want unemployment to be reduced through the creation of green jobs with a living wage and the stronger consideration of the impact of employment policy on youth. Governments should promote young people's role in the workforce by providing them with the appropiate skills and knowledge to improve their employablity . Possible initiatives could include locally appropriate job-training in the context of sustainable development, start-up capital for young entrepreneurs, and apprenticeship programmes. 

Entrepreneurship opportunities like the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (You WiN!) Programme of the Nigerian Federal Ministries of Finance, Communications &ICT and Youth Development should be encouraged across African countries, while engaging the creative innovations of African youth. With aging populations in advanced economies and rising wages in Asia, Africa has the opportunity to become the next center for manufacturing, ICT and service sector jobs. Africa’s “youth bulge” need not be a harbinger of conflict and instability in Africa.

The conference ended after four days of brainstorming on the environment, climate change and green growth and how they affect Africa’s future prosperity, participants called for the reform in many sectors including the educational system in Africa to increase skills & productivity of workers, train young graduates to be entrepreneurs. Speaking at the Closing plenary, Professor Nnadozie, Director, Economic Development and NEPAD Division UN ECA also urged that participants take the dialogue further once leaving the conference to their respective communities

Read the rest of this article here: Esther Agbarakwe Blog.

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Editorial Team.
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