Youth answer to economic recovery- AfDB
A regional economic outlook report by the African Development Bank, AfDB, says harnessing West Africa’s growing youth population for employment could speed up economic recovery after the devastation caused by covid-19 on the continent.
The report was virtually launched on July 3 by Ghana’s Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, in presence of other ministers of finance from the region, including Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed.
According to the report, as a result of the pandemic, growth in the West Africa region, which was poised to expand by 4.0 percent in 2020, following growth of 3.6 percent in 2019, is now projected to contract by -2.0 percent in 2020, and could fall by as much as -4.3 percent in a worst-case scenario.
It noted that countries that depend on oil and tourism for foreign exchange and fiscal revenues will especially face reduced fiscal space and heightened external account imbalances, stoking a build-up of public debt.
While launching the report, Ghana’s Minister of Finance, Ofori-Atta, said “the economic impacts of the pandemic imply the need for economies of the region to begin considering post-COVID-19 strategies with focus on building resilience in strategic sectors and accelerating regional integration.
Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Ahmed added that the country is working with partners like the African Development Bank on economic measures to minimize the adverse effects of COVID-19.
Also speaking, the Director General, Regional Development and Business Delivery Office for West Africa, Marie-Laure Akin-Olugbade, said the region’s young population offered an opportunity to help speed up economic recovery.
“West Africa is endowed with a burgeoning youth population that can strategically be harnessed for employment and economic growth. However, the labor force participation rate for the working population has consistently declined since the beginning of the millennium from 64.2 percent in 2000 to 58.5 percent in 2019.
This report proffers policy recommendations to address this decline and begin to reverse current trends,” Olugbade said.
AfDB noted in a statement that this year’s report highlights developments in the region with particular emphasis on “Skills Development and Education for the Workforce of the Future,” and also investigates the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the region.
According to the report, a low ranking in the human capital index – which measures the mobilization of the economic potential of citizens – has implications for the region’s capability to embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution, 4IR.
The bank’s senior director in the Nigeria Country Department, Ebrima Faal, said, “Partnering with global technology companies can also create avenues for research and development to boost skills development for the future.”
As regards COVID-19, the report urged countries in the region to bolster their healthcare systems and increase funding to train and equip frontline health workers.
“Importantly, enhancing healthcare preparedness and building early surveillance and preventive mechanisms is crucial in saving lives.
A coordinated regional approach may be more effective than fragmented country level interventions to avoid the spread of infections across borders,” the report noted.
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