COVID-19 at Risk of Worsening Youth Unemployment in North Africa

Rabat, November 4th (ECA) – The ECA Office for North Africa held on Tuesday, November 3rd a webinar on “Best practices on job creation in North Africa”.

Participants discussed lessons learned and best practices on job creation and what governments and other key actors can do to ensure employment policies achieve meaningful results for youth employment and empowerment across North Africa.

“Employment is a core issue for development policy agenda. Unfortunately, North Africa had the highest unemployment rate in 2019 at 12,1%, and the lowest employment to population ratio in the continent (40.1% against a continental average of 58.8%), with a 29% youth unemployment against 13% globally”, said Khaled Hussein, interim director of the ECA Office for North Africa at the meeting opening.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, North African economies had achieved reasonable growth levels, and several countries had managed to engage their economies on the road towards more diversification. However, the sub-region still faces major issues including low productivity growth and high unemployment rates.

Formal job creation in North Africa’s private sector did not keep up with the rise of the young labour force as Small as Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) - which play a critical role in driving economic growth, creating jobs and building a competitive private sector - struggled to enter markets.

At the same time, many employers have been facing difficulties in finding employees equipped with the skillsets needed for their businesses. According to Ms. Ana Martiningui, CEO of Education for Employment, 81% of businesses have been unable to find the profiles needed to grow their activities, as public education systems struggled to prepare youth for today’s and tomorrow’s economy.

The economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to have a severe impact on North African economies, with experts forecasting a 0.3% GDP growth in the best case scenario, and -5.4% in the worst-case scenario according to United Nations.

This situation is expected to significantly increase youth unemployment figures in North Africa, further complicating countries’ efforts to create enough jobs to match the rapid growth of the labour force, with the risk of turning the sub-region’s demographic dividend into a major issue and potential source of social unrest, according to Amal El Beshbishi, the Employment Lead at the ECA Office for North Africa.

To prevent this from happening, experts presented a variety of recommendations in areas such as youth skilling and re-skilling, the role of the private sector in increasing job creation, and best practice from Egypt, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Kenya in the field of youth employment policies and the use of inclusive innovation to generate blue collars jobs.

The webinar on “Best practices on job creation in North Africa” took place with the participation of J. Chris Toe, Senior Advisor for Corporate and Country Strategic Engagement in the Strategic Partnerships Division of the World Food Programme (WFP), Ethiopia; Ana Martiningui, CEO of Education for Employment, Spain; Agya Yaw Nsiah, Director of Research and Planning at the Youth Employment Agency of Ghana, Callee Davis, Economist at NKC African Economics (an Oxford Economics company, South Africa) and Dr. Ahmed Galal, CEO & Co-Founder, Egypt.

فايروس كورونا (كوفيد 19) يهدد بتفاقم بطالة الشباب في شمال أفريقيا

Issued by

Communication Team
Economic Commission for Africa
Office for North Africa
Tel: +212 (0) 537 548 749