Youth unemployment is key issue as African ministers meet ahead of AU summit

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) - African Ministers, who constitute the African Union’s Executive Council, were due to kick-start their meeting Sunday in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, ahead of the summit of Africa leaders at month's end.

Top on the agenda of the meeting will be the theme of the summit, which is the issue of the African youth, a subject made more urgent by the uprising in Northern Africa.

The subject matter before the Malabo Summit was inspired by the urgent need to deal with the issues of youth unemployment, which is becoming a crisis despite the above average economic growth rates in Africa.

AU Commission President Jean Ping said the issue of the youth was critical to the continent’s social and economic progress and required a careful analysis.

“It is a very alarming situation. We have had demonstrations by university students, but at what point should we determine that these student demonstrations are actually leading to regime change. This is a situation of great concern to us,” Ping said.

The political crises in Tunisia and Egypt were largely driven by the failure to provide descent jobs to an educated youthful population.

Africa is also expected to receive promised international assistance to address the problem facing the continent's youth.

Australia, Denmark, India and Japan have variously made proposals on how their countries could help the AU to deal with the issue of training and job creation for the youth, based on enhanced economic growth and global trade.

In January, Australia, one of the world’s mining giants, offered to expand educational scholarship programmes for African students from the current 400 students a year to 1,000 students by 2013 in its renewed cooperation with Africa.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, who has attended the last two of AU Executive Council meetings, said Australia was currently working to secure US$4 billion to be given as aid to African countries. This is in addition to US$20 billion invested by Australian firms in various mining operations across Africa.

Rudd said the Australian government was also willing to help African states to draft laws that would help govern the mining sector in Africa to ensure that the African people receive a fairer share of the mineral resources obtained from the continent.

But the biggest offer for the African youth’s improvement plan has so far come from India, which is offering scholarships for some 20,000 African students to study through the e-network plan, where studies of agriculture and sciences are prioritised.

Japan is also proposing the doubling of foreign aid to Africa by 2012 to US$15 billion, and the government has unveiled plans to support the creation of the Pan African University, aimed at enhancing the capacity of the youth to help drive a new economic and industrialisation agenda for the continent.

Recent reports by the UN indicate that although Africa remains the largest source of global economic growth, this is still insufficient to lead to job-creation.

Apart from the issue of generating economic growth, African leaders are also being pressed to fight corruption and to attract investments that will further create job opportunities for unemployed youth.

The challenge for the African Ministers is to translate the donor pledges made during the past Executive Council meetings into workable policies beneficial to the African youth.
-0- PANA AO/SEG 26June2011

26 june 2011 09:14:22




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