Secretary-General Calls for Investment in Africa’s Youth, Continent’s ‘Greatest Asset’, to Promote Development, Close Gender Gaps in Labour Force

SG/SM/19242-ECO/294
25 September 2018

Secretary-General Calls for Investment in Africa’s Youth, Continent’s ‘Greatest Asset’, to Promote Development, Close Gender Gaps in Labour Force

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the “A Call to Invest:  Investing in Jobs for Young People in Africa” event, in New York today:

Let me thank the United Kingdom, Canada, Ghana and Rwanda for bringing us together and for highlighting the vast opportunities for investing in jobs for young people in Africa.

Youth unemployment is first and foremost a tragedy for young people’s hope for the future.  But it can also undermine development and generate frustration and alienation that, in turn, can be a catalyst for social unrest, crime and unsafe migration — and a threat to global peace and security.

It would be wrong to draw a straight line between youth unemployment and a propensity for violence.   Yet it is unfortunately all too easy for frustration and anger to be exploited by extremists of all kinds.

Africa has the fastest growing youth population in the world.  They are the continent’s greatest asset — a vast source of energy, innovation, ideas and solutions.  Indeed, at a time when the rest of the world will be ageing, Africa’s youth are also an asset for the global labour force.

But today, one third of African youth are unemployed and discouraged; another third are vulnerably employed or in low‑value jobs in the informal sector.  This reinforces poverty and inequality.  Young African women are even worse off.  It is estimated that gender gaps in the labour force cost Africa $105 billion in 2014 alone.

Investment is crucial to harness Africa’s youth dividend.  Investments [are needed] in health and education, and in science, technology and industrialization.  And not just basic education — but in skills that match the needs of present but above all of future labour markets in a world that is changing so quickly.

The African Continental Free Trade Area is an important step in the right direction in creating job opportunities.  Earlier this week, the United Nations launched the Youth2030 strategy and the Generation Unlimited initiative — two new efforts to empower people, including through learning and employment, especially for girls.

We want to make sure that all young people, in and beyond Africa, have decent work and can fulfil their potential.  Thank you very much.

For information media. Not an official record.