Prioritizing green economy in Africa: A dual solution for unemployment and climate change

green economy/ unemployment

Prioritizing green economy in Africa: A dual solution for unemployment and climate change


It is no secret that Africa has the youngest population worldwide. The expected rise in median age from 18.8 years today, to 19.9 years by 2023 underscores the impending increase in the youth demographic under the age of 25 over the next decade. 


green economy/unemployment



This has raised a lot of concerns about the capacity of Africa’s economy to generate job opportunities for its growing population because currently, approximately 60% of all unemployed individuals in Africa are youth, which means that a large margin of all Africa’s unemployment is concentrated among the youth.


According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), Each year, approximately 10 to 12 million young people enter the labor market, but merely 3.1 million formal jobs are created by African countries, leaving the majority unemployed or forcing them to settle for low-paid and low productive jobs in the informal sector to make ends meet. 


This is rather unfortunate because Africa’s youth hold the key to its development potential, meaning that inactive youth labor has led to low levels of social and economic development, increased poor living conditions, and fueled a wave of migration out of Africa. 


For instance, the unemployment rate for 15-24 years old in Tunisia grew to 40.2% in the first quarter of this year leading to a sharp rise in attempts to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, a route described by the UN as the deadliest sea-crossing for refugees globally to search for better opportunities.  


Sadly, more than 400 migrants (mostly Africans) drowned in the Central Mediterranean in the first three months of this year, which made it the deadliest quarter since 2017 on the world’s most dangerous refugee crossing. This migration crisis further highlights the gravity of the unemployment crisis for young people in Africa. 


Conversely, climate change has limited the availability of specific ecosystems due to shifting biomes, heightened occurrences of natural disasters, and alterations in rainfall and temperature patterns undermining economic activities and the associated employment opportunities.  


For example, Lake Chad has shrunk to a tenth of its size, due to a combination of droughts and increasing withdrawals for irrigation.  


green economy/unemployment 

Source: The United Nations 


This development has particularly impacted youths and women, who have been left out of productive employment that would normally sustain them. The number of people whose livelihoods depend on the lake has surged from an estimated 13 million to about 30 million and it is expected to increase to 80 million by 2030. 


The African Development Bank outlines that Africa is the most vulnerable continent to climate change impacts and unfortunately, the underdevelopment, low adaptive capacity, heavy dependence on climate-sensitive sectors, and limited access to finance and technology make it very challenging for the continent to address these impacts.  


However, the adverse effects of climate change can be transformed into opportunities by embracing the green economy to reduce Africa’s vulnerability to climate change and more importantly decrease youth unemployment.   


Climate change provides Africa with opportunities to tap into its vast resources to meet the targets of Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals. By focusing on green economies in Africa to tackle climate change, substantial market prospects can arise across the continent, mainly benefiting the private sector and institutional investors. 


The concept of a green economy which is broadly understood as an economy that results in the improvement of human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities is emerging as one of the hopeful solutions to these challenges. It is anticipated that moving towards a green economy will create new jobs and increase opportunities for youth in the future of work. 


The notion of a green economy does not substitute sustainable development but creates a new focus on the economy, investment, capital and infrastructure, employment and skills, and positive social and environmental outcomes across Africa.  


According to calculations by (ILO) in the World Employment and Social Outlook 2018, the green economy is expected to create 24 million jobs globally in the next 20 years, making it potentially one of the biggest growth markets for African youth. 


Although the expansion of the green economy into the African continent sounds incredible, there are several gaps that ought to be closed before this economy can be explored. Among many, political instability (including conflict and corruption) will be the biggest hindrance to the effective operationalization of many green sectors. Additionally, high illiteracy rates, the quality and relevance of the education system, and an unskilled labor force will make it challenging to realize a green economy.  


Call to action: 


green economy


Promote meaningful youth engagement: 


To ensure that the goals and chances linked to the green economy match the aspirations and ambitions of young people when it comes to future work, it is crucial to involve them in discussions about plans and the creation of jobs related to the green economy. 


Foster skills needed for green jobs, including digital skills: 


African governments should increase efforts to retrain and update the skills of the workforce as fast and widely as possible. It’s also vital for young people to develop skills that can be useful in different jobs, like being creative, collaborating well, and starting their own businesses. This step is important in getting them ready for the types of jobs that will be crucial in the future. 


In certain fields of green technology, like managing electronic waste and using smart energy systems, the skills required are closely connected to digital skills. So, it might be helpful to create educational programs that teach both green skills and digital skills together, often in schools or training centers. 


Find a balance in supporting climate solutions: 


Currently, when money is given to help with climate problems, it often goes to businesses that are working to decrease pollution and greenhouse gases. These businesses are typically in the farming and renewable energy sectors. 


While these areas can provide many new job opportunities for young people, it’s also essential to find ways to fight the impacts of climate change, such as natural disasters and extreme weather. This means achieving a balance between addressing climate change and preparing for its effects. This could open even more possibilities for young people to have meaningful jobs that contribute to the environment. 


Working together for a common goal: 


Maximizing the potential of the green economy requires collective efforts involving governments, educational institutions, businesses, and civil society. Governments should focus on sustainable education, political stability, and vocational training programs.


Meanwhile, businesses can contribute by providing internships and job opportunities that align with green initiatives. Non-governmental organizations can also contribute by raising awareness and running programs that help young people understand the importance of sustainability. 



Related Post