African youth unemployment has been on the EU’s agenda for some time, and has been one of the key focuses of the EU-Africa Summit on the Ivory Coast this week. European and African leaders have pledged to help improve economic prospects for young people and to help repatriate some of the thousands of migrants held in detention camps in Libya.
Some of the other topics on the agenda for leaders include peace and security, as well as cooperation on governance. EU President Donald Tusk said in a statement that “The European Union is Africa’s biggest partner and closest neighbour. Its biggest investor, its biggest trading partner, its biggest provider of development aid and humanitarian assistance as well as its biggest contributor in peace and security. And this summit demonstrated our determination to reinforce our partnership even more.”
With 60% of Africa’s population being under 25 and a rapidly increasing population, unemployment is a huge concern for leaders. The UN estimates that the population of the continent will double by 2050 which leaves a shortfall of approximately 18 million jobs a year. Youth unemployment is an equally important issue for European leaders, with rates being as high as 43% in Greece and 38% in Spain.
The lack of employment prospects for Africa’s youth is causing thousands of people to head towards Europe in search of opportunities and financial stability. A representative of African youth said at the summit that “Investing in youth employment will enable young Africans tempted to cross the Mediterranean at the risk of their lives not to do so. We ask you to make decisions that will allow young Africans not to go to Europe”
The Ivorian president has defended claims that not enough investment has been made in providing better prospects for young people, saying “Young people have the right to demand, both in Europe and in Africa, the opportunities to look forward to the future with serenity. Because youth is an opportunity, but also a risk if we do not offer the opportunities it deserves”
He concluded by adding “Dear young people, you represent the future of our continent, an invaluable asset for Africa. I invite you not to embark on the adventure [of illegal migration] at the risk of your lives.”
The ongoing issue of migration is a key part of the talks, and particularly how the lack of opportunities across Africa is driving young people towards Europe. “The European Union and its members must think and commit additional funds to finance education programs, particularly through the Global Partnership for Education,” said Friederike Röder, spokesperson for NGO One in Abidjan.
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