Labour Potential in Africa: the State and Development Prospects


Irina Matsenko


Abstract: The subject of this study is the state, use and development prospects of the labour potential in the countries of Africa. For the first time in Russian African studies, last information on the current state of the employment problem in Africa, its urgency and complexity of the solution is summarized. The study shows that the impressive economic growth in many African countries over the past two decades has not been accompanied by any evident changes in employment in terms of creating new jobs and reducing unemployment and poverty. The high rates of unemployment, informal employment and working poverty have no analogues anywhere in the world. The author analyzes the causes of this phenomenon ̶ a sharp imbalance between the rapid growth of the working-age population and the creation of jobs, resulting in a huge excess of labour supply over demand, especially skilled labour. Particular attention is paid to youth unemployment, fraught with explosive growth of political instability in the society.

With regard to possible ways of solving the employment problem in Africa, the successful experience in this field in a number of African countries (Ghana, Rwanda, Ethiopia) leads the author to the conclusion that at this stage the priority efforts should be aimed at creating decent jobs in the sectors and areas with prevalence of work of the poor, namely agriculture and economic activities in rural areas. In the long term, however, it is necessary to carry out a gradual transition to more productive sectors of the economy (manufacturing and the modern services sector) for creating decent jobs in them.
In general, in order to create quality jobs and reduce poverty, African countries need the sustainable and inclusive economic growth, which involves structural transformation on the basis of economic diversification, including industrialization, and increasing agricultural productivity. There is no universal recipe for all countries of the continent, but a comprehensive employment policy covers a wide range of necessary steps ̶ from investing in education and vocational training to targeted measures to increase employment and social protection, including public works projects. Ultimately, the author believes, the rise of the African economy and the reduction of poverty will largely depend on the state of the workforce both in urban and rural areas.


Africa, workforce, employment, unemployment, poverty, labour market




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