New report: AfCFTA creates jobs, opportunities for African youth

25 May 2021
ITC News
The African Continental Free Trade Area offers employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for youth, but policymakers and development organizations must take steps to ensure the agreement reaches its full potential.

Africa’s large and fast-growing youth population is considered one of its greatest assets, with a central role to play in shaping the development of the continent. Yet, young Africans face numerous challenges that affect their livelihoods and make it difficult for them to thrive.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has what it takes to tackle these challenges by creating more jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities for young men and women. A new International Trade Centre (ITC) report, Opportunities for Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship: Understanding the African Continental Free Trade Area, explores how youth stand to benefit from the creation of a single market and promotion of key sectors, including manufacturing, agriculture and services.

Africa is the youngest continent in the world, with a median age of 19.8 years and 65% of the population under age 25. A third of all youth are expected to live in Africa by 2050.

Yet young Africans face ‘far-reaching problems including unemployment, lack of access to finance and financial aid, barriers to scale for small businesses, and tensions arising from intraregional and international migration,’ said Kgosietsile II Matthews Mmopi of the Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development in Africa.

New manufacturing jobs

‘ITC is committed to helping youth take advantage of the market opportunities from the AfCFTA,’ said Pamela Coke-Hamilton, ITC Executive Director. ‘Political will and a commitment to reform are necessary to tap into the potential of Africa’s young labour force and ensure that the gains from economic integration are distributed fairly across the continent.’

Manufacturing stands to benefit the most under the AfCFTA – creating up to 16 million new jobs, according to the Brookings Institution. Young Africans will benefit ‘as growth in this sector will help bridge the youth employment gap’, the report says.

The promotion of services under the agreement also promises to create more jobs for youth and increase entrepreneurship opportunities. Youth can also take advantage of an AfCFTA protocol on e-commerce, which underscores the importance of the digital economy.

International organizations and policymakers must help ensure that the agreement reaches its full potential and, in particular, supports young Africans, by raising awareness about youth issues, strengthening the digital economy and improving access to finance for young entrepreneurs, the report says. They must also sensitize youth to the opportunities the agreement offers, fortify youth networks and business support organizations, and boost investments in education and skills development.