Way Out of Youth Unemployment


Nii Armah Ashietey, Ghana’s minister of employment and labour relations, wants ECOWAS member states to introduce and make entrepreneurship studies a compulsory subject subject in their edicational institutions

By Maureen Chigbo   |  May 20, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

A WAY out of the prevailing youth unemployment in the West African sub region could be the introduction of entrepreneurship studies in educational institution in ECOWAS member countries. Such studies will help the youth to become self-employed on graduation rather than being thrown into the job market to search for non-existent employment opportunities. Nii Armah Ashietey, Ghana’s minister of employment and labour relations, resonated the idea while opening a four-day regional workshop to build the capacity of member states on the development of national youths employment action plans on Tuesday, May 7, in Accra, Ghana.

According to the minister, exposure to the rudiments of the course may influence some young people to “seriously consider self-employment as a better option than looking for jobs”. Ashietey, who was represented by Antwi Boasiako Sekyene, deputy minister,  decried the “serious disconnect between the industrial world and some of the courses offered by our higher educational institutions”, which has contributed to the shortfall of human resources in certain fields whereas schools are “producing many graduates in sectors where their expertise is not needed and there is even a glut”. He called for a better linkage between member-countries’ labour needs and the supply of human resources by our universities, assuring that his ministry would soon “embark on re-tooling our training institutions.” “It is hoped that in this way numerous unskilled and unemployed people will be given the much-needed skills over a longer period, examined and given the appropriate certificates to find jobs,” the minister said. Describing the challenge of unemployment as critical, he called for “effective collaboration, cooperation and coordination of our efforts to maximise the outcome of such efforts”.

Adrienne Diop, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Human Development and Gender, in her opening remarks, noted the gap between strategies and necessary policies and tools to tackle the challenge of youth unemployment holistically in most member states. The commissioner, who was represented by Sintiki Tarfa Ugbe, director of Gender, Youth, Sports and Employment and Drug Control, stated that the ECOWAS Commission had started implementing the regional Youth Employment Action Plan which was adopted in 2012 in Dakar, Senegal.

According to her, one of the key priority areas identified in the action plan was the need to support the development of member states’ capacities in developing their own national youth employment plans. She noted that a serious developmental issue such as youth unemployment calls for a systematic and guided approach to effectively address it, and expressed the hope that the workshop would enrich the participants so that member states can have their action plans and implement them “earnestly to ensure that the problem of unemployment is addressed coherently”.

In his goodwill message, the representative of the ILO Regional Office for Africa, Diego Rei, described the National Action Plan on Youth Employment as tools for delivering decent employment for young people. He expressed the hope that the workshop would allow for the establishment of a peer review mechanism which would enable member states to learn from one another, saying that this was even more relevant for ECOWAS as only a few countries have so far set up their own National Action Plans.

Rei reiterated the ILO’s commitment to its partnership with ECOWAS in other areas of common interest, including the elimination of the worst forms of child labour, labour migration and social protection.

The workshop was specifically to provide the right regional frameworks to effectively address the challenge of youth unemployment and promote decent work in the region. It is also planned to train member states and develop their capacities on the development of National Youth Employment frameworks, as well as acquaint them with ILO guidelines for the preparation of National Action Plans on Youth Employment.

In attendance at the workshop were representatives of the ministries responsible for youth affairs and the national youth councils or national youth associations in ECOWAS member states, ECOWAS National Unit in Ghana, the UNDP and the ILO.

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