By Temitope Ponle
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has said policymakers in Africa should ensure that the continent had the right policies and infrastructure in various sectors, especially in information and digital technology, and tourism.
Mrs Vera Songwe, United Nations Under-Secretary-General said this was to ensure job creation and allow for youth to be innovative and also become entrepreneurs for the economic development of the continent.
Songwe, who is also the Executive Secretary, UNECA, said this at the West Africa Business Forum entitled: “Empowering women and youths to spur Africa’s transformation agenda” in Lagos.
She said discussions at the ongoing forum was on how to ensure that women and youth were part of Africa’s efforts to build forward better and look for homebuilt ideas and innovations that would promote environmental protection.
“For all these to happen, we need our policymakers to ensure for all sectors, we have the right infrastructure, we have the right policy framework, to ensure we can create jobs and allow space for the youth to be innovative and to become entrepreneurs themselves.”
The under-secretary-general also described African women and youth as one of the most active and entrepreneurial around the globe, saying that the UNECA was looking at ways to support small and medium enterprises in the agriculture and energy sectors, to continue their businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In a crisis, the first thing we want to do is ensure we prevent good businesses from falling below and focus a lot on retention. Africa, in particular, the West African region, has the population dynamics working for it.
“The African population is estimated at 1.3 billion in 2020 of which over 250 million are the youth and it is estimated that 10 million to 12 million are entering the workforce every year, but only 3.1 million of them find jobs.
“We need to make sure that we have the perfect match of the jobs the youth are looking for and the training they get because many of the youth in West Africa, and in Africa in general, are not getting the right training they need.”
The executive secretary stressed the importance of the ratification of African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) by governments, as it would further support entrepreneurship and innovation among women and youths.
“We need to do more; we need to do better as West African women are known to be the powerhouse of our growth and economies, they are the ones who trade across borders.
“We need to do more to ensure that as they do that, we provide the right environment for them to do their businesses and the force for driving this environment is creating the right regulatory framework and the most effective framework our leaders have tried to put in place is the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
“AfCFTA stands to grow Africa’s GDP by an additional one trillion dollars to deliver on what is needed: first unlocking our borders, building value chains and making sure the African women all work together to create the supply chain for textile, fashion and for agro-industry.
“Essentially, grow the value of the products and earn more from that and also they can become sub-regional and wider continental and international businesses and not limited to the geographies in which we exist today,” she said.
UNECA, in 2017, noted that almost 60 per cent of Africa’s population was under the age of 25, making Africa the world’s youngest continent.
The adoption of the AfCFTA in 2018, and its entering into force in Jan. 2020, opened up opportunities for women and youth of the continent, particularly in West Africa.
The agreement’s opportunities include: a common market of combined gross domestic product estimated at $3.4 trillion dollars; trading in goods, services, investment, intellectual property rights; and intra-African trade up to $35 billion dollars annually.
Other opportunities were also in a decrease in imports from outside the continent of $10 billion dollars and increase in agricultural and industrial exports.
The forum, which started on Tuesday and billed to end on Thursday, brings together women and youths from across 15 West African countries, business leaders, the private sector, and Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, among others.
The objective of the meeting is to support the socio-economic empowerment of women and youth to harness demographic dynamics for development and speed up structural transformation of West Africa, using the AfCFTA as an anchor. (NAN)
By Temitope Ponle