Among Africa’s many challenges, unemployment, independent of any other factor, threatens to derail the economic promise the continent deserves.
It’s a time bomb with no geographical boundaries: Economists expect Africa to create 54 million new jobs by 2020, but 122 million Africans will enter the labour force during that time frame. Adding to this shortfall are tens of millions currently unemployed or underemployed, making the human and economic consequences nearly too large to imagine. Enlightened policies Thus, even with the strong economic growth we have seen over the past decade, job creation in Africa remains much too slow.
Africa needs a comprehensive, coordinated approach akin to America’s “ Marshall Plan” in Europe after World War Two. Africa’s Marshall Plan should prioritise three interdependent “pillars” of development, which all work together to form a virtuous cycle of growth: policy reform and a commitment to the rule of law; investment in infrastructure, and a commitment to developing Africa’s manufacturing and processing industries.
First, we need enlightened government policies that help reduce administrative and operating costs for investors and businesses. We must streamline licensing and permitting processes, reduce import duties and tariffs and ease visa restrictions, among other reforms. Enlightened government policies in Kenya and Nigeria have already helped to advance the information technology and financial services sectors. Microsoft’s pilot project to expand broadband access in Africa depends on government policy that frees up unused “white space” in the TV and radio broadcast spectrum. Financial services reform across several African nations, starting with Nigeria, enabled United Bank for Africa to grow into a pan- African financial institution.
Infrastructure The second pillar of Africa’s development programme must be infrastructure investment, particularly in power and transportation, without which business cannot function. Today, more than 70 per cent of sub-Saharan Africa lacks access to electricity and every one per cent increase in electricity outages reduces Africa’s per-capita GDP by approximately three per cent.
Transportation infrastructure promises to have an equally transformative impact: roads, railways, waterways and airways are the backbone of a thriving commercial economy. Projects like the toll road between Entebbe and Kampala, and the Kenya-Tanzania highway will facilitate greater trade of agricultural and manufactured goods within Africa.