AfDB badly needs a clear reform approach, not just on youth skills

The Guardian
Published at 11:02 AM Apr 09 2024
African Development Bank (AfDB) group president Dr Akinwumi Adesina .
Photo: Courtesy of AFDB
African Development Bank (AfDB) group president Dr Akinwumi Adesina .

AFRICAN Development Bank (AfDB) group president Dr Akinwumi Adesina would be much happier with himself were he to succeed in knocking into shape ways to equip Africa’s youth with quality education and the skills needed to meet the challenges of the future.

This issue has become a mantra to him even as poverty and unemployment impede the way youths of a certain age would wish to bring up a family, which in turn ruins the whole framework on which tradition is built.

Ordinarily the unemployment problem is most felt by young men as young women have usable household options which their same-age male counterparts do not have.

Marriage or the starting of families cannot be separated from other social classes, and even when a marriage is created, its stability or assurance relates again with these requirements being met.

In the absence of an assured and predictable income, youths are thrown into confusion as life expectations are clouded – if not blocked.

That makes people lead lives of just getting something to fill the stomach, for some irrespective of the manner in which it comes about.

The skills approach AfDB has been speaking about on numerous occasions on behalf of the bank’s member states risks being taken for a mirage so long as youths endlessly fail to land employment not owing to low skills but scarcity of jobs.

With low birth rates and vibrant commerce, many developed countries have a problem finding enough workers, while millions of African degree holders roam the streets looking for something gainful to do but often without success.

The hapless youths are blamed for not starting something or excused for lacking ‘sellable’ skills whereas the wider problem is the pain of not finding work in an area of training.

Looking at the politics of how all this is handled, it is apparent that most multilateral institutions are on the same wavelength as the AfDB – that youths need skills that uplift their job finding expectations.

The idea of starting what are euphemistically called businesses but are actually not business is largely unworkable, as it often requires capital that comes with savings or property that attracts loans – and that belongs to elders, not youths.

Governments and their development partner friends just keep falling short of telling youths that there is no way through, as that could entice the desperate young men and women into doing just about anything to bring about some form of change.

The brainstorming AfDB and allied institutions are generating or engaging in as they figure out how African youth can become skilled and fight to adapt to unemployment would be better used to examine how African economies can be transformed into ‘generators’ of jobs.

It isn’t that there is nowhere to learn from; rather, it is that Africa will not progress in ejecting itself out of poverty without first confirming whether its key goals in the wake of decolonisation and the subsequent militancy for clan, tribe and state dominance in economic structures do not generate poverty.

Prevailing conditions may be hindering the circulation of capital, while academics and multilateral organisations focus on combating corruption as their theme of choice.

One may stand convinced that the correct use of taxes permits development while that may be limited to social services and lack capacity for optimal use.

Luckily, we have no shortage of the expertise and other resources we need to fare better on the scores that matter most to our development. Let us genuinely and fully feel compelled to put them to optimal use.