African nations bank on trade deal to create employment

Friday March 23 2018
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The African Heads of States and Governments pose during African Union (AU) Summit for the agreement to establish the African Continental Free Trade Area in Kigali, Rwanda, on March 21, 2018. PHOTO | AFP


African leaders are banking on the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) to help address the rising unemployment rate among its youth population.

According to the African Development Bank, about 13 million young people enter the labour market every year — the number is expected to reach 30 million annually by 2030 — yet only three million (about 33 per cent ) are in salaried employment.

The rest are either underemployed or in vulnerable employment — a situation some analysts have called “a ticking time bomb” that is likely to go off if the situation is not reversed.

By liberalising trade and eliminating tariff and non-tariff barriers between countries, it is expected that the continents growing youthful population will be progressively absorbed into the job market. About 66 million young people in Africa earn less than $2.

“Without jobs, chaos is likely in many African countries and this is partly why this agreement is soy important,” said Jean-Louis Billion, the vice chairman AfroChampions Initiative and former Ivory Coast minister of Trade and SME’s.

Thousands of Africans have embarked on the perilous journey of crossing the Mediterranean Sea in pursuit of opportunities in Europe. African cities are full of jobless graduates and this has contributed to violence and extremism.


Vera Songwe the executive secretary of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa said one of the key gains expected from the AfCFTA is expanded production across the various value chains, which beyond trade will greatly contribute to job creation.

The International Labour Organisation says that nearly 70 per cent of working youths in sub-Saharan Africa are living either in moderate or extreme poverty, therefore creating productive and decent employment is crucial.