Without urgent action to address stagnating levels of competitiveness, Africa’s economies will not create enough jobs for the young people entering the labour market, according to a recent World Bank report, even as it argued that “if current policies remain unchanged, fewer than one-quarter of the 450 million new jobs needed in Africa in the next 20 years will be created.”
The labour market assessment was contained in the Africa Competitiveness Report 2017, a biennial publication jointly produced by the World Economic Forum, the African Development Bank, and the World Bank Group.
Priorities to meet the changing demographics, the report stated, include policy reforms to improve the quality of institutions, infrastructure, skills and adoption of new technology, stressing that house construction and better urban planning present opportunities for short-term competitiveness gains.
According to the report, “the ability of Africa’s economies to generate enough jobs for its young and growing population rests on the successful implementation of urgent reforms to boost productivity.”
Competitiveness is defined as the set of institutions, policies and factors that determine the level of productivity—and hence future prosperity—of a country. The report, which covers North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, comes at a time when growth in most of the region’s economies has been slowing after a decade of sustained growth. Further stagnation is likely in the absence of improvements in the core conditions for competitiveness.
Compounding the challenge to Africa’s leaders, the report noted, is a rapidly expanding population, which is expected to add 450 million more to the labour force over the next two decades. Under current policies, only 100 million new jobs would be created during this period.
Africa’s young, dynamic population does, however, possess the potential to lead an economic revival in the region backed by targeted short- and long-term reforms in key areas, the report finds. Developing the right skills will help Africa remain competitive in a rapidly changing global economic landscape.
“Removing the hurdles that prevent Africa from fulfilling its competitiveness potential is the first step required to achieve more sustained economic progress and shared prosperity,” said the World Economic Forum’s Richard Samans, Managing Director Centre for the Global Agenda.
“To meet the aspirations of their growing youth population, African governments are well advised to enact polices that improve levels of productivity and the business environment for trade and investment. The World Bank Group is helping governments and the private sector across Africa take the steps necessary to build strong economies and accelerate job creation in order to benefit from the potential demographic dividend,” said the World Bank Group’s Klaus Tilmes, Director of the Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice, which contributed to the report.
“African cities have to update their urban plans, taking into account demographic and economic developments in the last decades. This is crucial to address the shortage of urban infrastructure and availability of land for residential housing. This is important as a massive investment is needed for the continent to lower the housing backlog, thereby improving the lives of urban residents, and to create employment for the youth,” “In its new business delivery model, the Bank has created a unit to specifically focus on cities and urban infrastructure,” Abebe Shimeles, African Development Bank’s Acting Director of Macroeconomic Policy, Forecasting and Research Department, added.
The Africa Competitiveness Report combines data from the Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index with studies on employment policies and city competitiveness. Also included in the report are detailed competitiveness profiles of 35 African economies. The profiles provide a comprehensive summary of the drivers of competitiveness in each of the countries covered by the report, and are used by policy-makers, business strategists and other key stakeholders, as well as those with an interest in the region.