Today January 25, 2022

How AfCFTA can solve youth and women unemployment situation in Africa

A common market for Africa, an African currency. African Monetory zone, an African Central bank. A continental communication system- Dr. Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana’s first President 1960-1966).

Let’s make the African market, the market for Africans- Thomas Sankara (Former president Burkina faso-1983-1987).

2021 started with African Union and its subsidiary the African Free Continental Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) secretariat talking trade and inviting people to do business with Africa.

This start of trading that took place on the 1st of January, 2021 opening up the world’s biggest market in terms of participating countries, (55) and with 1.3 billion people, making AfCFTA a game changer.

In simple terms, the whole idea of AfCFTA is to ensure African countries trade and do business among themselves more than they do with those in other continents.

For example, Benin buys Cement from China instead of buying Cement from neighboring Nigeria.

The biggest question is ‘how can women and the youth of Africa benefit from this ambitious trade agreement?’

In Africa, women and youth have always being at the receiving end. Meanwhile, they are those supposed to participate and benefit more from the AfCFTA Agreement than any other group of people.

How can you benefit from something you are not aware of? Knowledge they say is power and information now rules the world.

I always say that you can be a prince but live like a pauper if you are not aware of your royalty status. There is a general saying that the youth are the future leaders, my question]’, when is the future? For me I think the future is now and the youth must be given roles to play. Someone said that when you tell your children how much wealth and legacy you have left for them, the honorable thing to do is to depart.

In 2020, Africa’s population under 35 represents almost a billion people (540.8 million 0-14 years old and 454.5 million 15-34 years old), amounting to 22.7% of the world’s total youth population, the second largest after Asia’s (58.0%).

Africa has one of the youthful population in the world but most of them are unemployed, underemployed and not giving role to play in leadership positions. This youth unemployment issue could best explain why Africa’s contribution to global Domestic Product (GDP) is as low as 3%.

As ambitious as AfCFTA is, to boost intra-African trade and thus help grow the GDP of Africa as a whole cannot be successful without active participation of women and youth at all levels. This requires that the unemployment situation needs to be tackled head on, with skills trainings, empowerment, right attitude, involvement in leadership and decision making process, education and capacity building among others to make it a success.

IMMEDIATE SOLUTION TO UNEMPLOYEMENT

There are so many industries the youth of Africa can be supported to venture into. Some of which includes Information Technology (IT), Agriculture, Manufacturing (industrialization) among others.

However, there are two industries in my view that the youth and women need to go into and all the support they need must be given to them in that regard; Agriculture and industrialization. These two industries are in symbiotic relationship.

Gone are the days when farming or agriculture was referred to as poor man’s job, now agriculture is a billion dollar industry or more than that. Africa is one of the continent that imports more goods and this explains why we face Balance of payment problems. Once we export more than we import, our economies will always suffer.

A chunk of our budget is spent on importation, Africa remains a net importer of food, although it has 60% of the world’s uncultivated arable land.

Youth and women need to be supported to go into agriculture. We need to also add value to what we produce and that leads us to manufacturing. We should be able to add value to the farm produce and supply to our people and also export the surplus.

This requires us to ensure standardization, quality, good pricing and at every level think of the global market. This is because we are in a global village and our products must meet international standard if we are to survive. These industries will automatically create decent jobs for women and youth which will affect the whole economy positively.

We can focus on these two in the interim whilst we develop other sectors as times goes on.

ADVOCATING FOR WOMEN AND YOUTH PARTICIPATION IN AfCFTA

Indeed, the World Bank predicts that 30 million Africans could be lifted out of extreme poverty, while incomes could rise by $450 billion by 2035. Exports could increase by $560 billion, while wages may increase by 10.3 percent and 9.8 percent for unskilled and skilled workers, respectively. Thus most of the people who are going to benefit are going to be women and youth.

Ms. Thokozile Ruzvidzo, Director of the Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), stated that about 70% of informal cross border trade is made up of women who are vulnerable, thus Understanding the gender impacts of trade under AfCFTA is critical in ensuring equality of opportunity for women and men.

The AfCFTA is not a panacea, though, and new complex challenges (e.g., COVID-19 and climate change) have exposed the vulnerability of social and economic systems across the world, highlighting their interconnectedness and emphasizing the need for collaboration around radical and sustainable solutions.

Since we are interconnected and interdependent, we believe that if the youth is well mobilized, we can form a formidable voice and push for favourable protocols that will ensure women and youth are not left out.

Some of the challenges faced by women and youth in Africa includes but not limited to;

– Lack of adequate knowledge in Information Technology (IT) and its use in making business easier.

– Lack of adequate digital tools for African youth and women engagement and empowerment (finance, marketing, jobs, capacity building)

– Inadequate representation of youth and women based businesses and trade groups

– General and insufficient involvement of youth and women based groups

– Absence of engagement mechanisms within AfCFTA, during ongoing negotiations, with marginalized groups.

Someone will ask, what the solutions are there? We recommend the following:
– AfCFTA Secretariat should include and engage youth and women in designing the protocols

– There is should be provision of requisite information and sensitization on AfCFTA among women and youth.

– Create appropriate digital tools to support youth and women (access to finance, market research and database, skills workshops, etc.)

– Design African study programs on regional integration and peace building (including ones focused on gender and youth mainstreaming)

– More youth and women groups needs to be formed and as a formidable force and their leadership included in national AfCFTA committees as well as the continental secretariat.

Conclusion

We at the AfCFTA Young Entrepreneurs federation (AfCFTA) believes that the Continental Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) is the hope for African women and youth to be economically independent. Now our women won’t be harassed at the borders, there is supposed to be free movement of goods and people across Africa but this can only be done if our leaders don’t only pay lips service to it.

We must all get involved to ensure this ambitious dream is achieved. There are bottlenecks like language barrier, lack of common customs union, lack of common trade dispute settlement court, lack of good infrastructure among others.

If our leaders look at the overall benefit more than their individual benefits, this is achievable.

AfCFTA presents decent employment opportunities for the youth of Africa and as such those that prepare well will be main beneficiaries. We have all seen that high rate of unemployment and underemployment is affecting most African economies and when the investors want to employ highly skilled labour, they go for expatriates because of the lack requisite skills for the job, lack integrity and loyalty among the African youth.

Our federation is organizing series of training for women and Youth from January 2022 aimed at empowering and sensitizing the women and youth on the opportunities and threats presented by AfCFTA and how to harness them to their advantage.

Source: Ghana Web

hammad

hammad

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