Growth Sectors, Youth and Employment: Challenges and Way Forward: A Synthesis Paper of Ethiopia, Mali and Nigeria Country Case Studies

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Omolo, Jacob
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Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries were posting relatively good economic growth rates pre-COVID-19. The region registered an average growth rate of 4.1% in 2010‒2019 before registering a declined growth of 1.9% in 2020. Ethiopia maintained a strong growth rate of at least 7.7% in 2010‒2019, averaging 9.6% over the period. Equally, Mozambique and Mali's average growth rates of 5.5% and 4.4% in 2010‒2019 were above the SSA's average. Though Nigeria's real economic growth rate remained highly volatile, it managed an average of 3.8% in 2010‒2019, which was marginally below the region's average. Despite the realized growth rates, SSA and her member countries continue to witness increased levels of unemployment, particularly for women and youth. Unemployment rate amongst the youth (15-35 years) in Mali was estimated at 20.2% in 2019, with young females bearing a higher burden (6.1%) compared to young males (4.9%). The youth (15-29 years) in Ethiopia bore unemployment rate of 14% in 2021, six percentage points above the national average. The unemployment rate of the female youth (29%) was almost double that of the male youth (16%). Youth (15-34 years) unemployment rate in Nigeria was estimated at 30% in 2018. Again, the female youth suffered higher rates of unemployment compared to male youth. Besides open unemployment, the youth also experience underemployment and vulnerable employment with regional, sectoral, gender, and age-based disparities. Enhancing decent employment for young men and women is a key policy priority of all governments in SSA, including Ethiopia, Mali and Nigeria. While many policies, legal, institutional and programmatic interventions that seek to promote creation of employment opportunities for young men and women exist, youth employment challenge persists. Furthermore, while the countries premise employment creation on economic growth, the growth episodes in these countries have not been accompanied by commensurate growth in employment. A number of studies have been conducted on the trends and drivers of youth unemployment. However, there is limited robust evidence on the economic sectors that have the greatest potential to create jobs for the youth. Following the identified research gap, the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) in partnership with the Economic Research Forum (ERF) and Overseas Development Institute (ODI) commissioned collaborative studies in a number of countries. The researches focused on “Income and work for young men and women 2 Working Paper GSYE-004 in Africa: A political Economy and Social Equity Approach to the Employment Potential of Specific Sectors and Subsectors in African Economies”. This Synthesis Paper draws from country-specific researches conducted in Ethiopia, Mali, and Nigeria1 . Though a similar study was also conducted in Mozambique, the country's study report was not available for review. The broad objective of the country case studies was to identify the growth sectors, provide evidence on country-specific actors and conditions needed to support these sectors, and identify ways to promote equal access to the opportunities by all youth regardless of their gender, socioeconomic background, or geographical location.