One of the reasons parents pressure their children to go to school and concentrate on their studies is because of the perception that a good education will get them a job later. However, the dilemma is that with more people graduating from high and tertiary school it is presenting a problem for governments. There are not enough jobs available to assimilate the millions of graduates offloaded on Africa's labour market annually. According to the United Nations there are an estimated 200 million people aged between 15 and 24 in Africa. These are individuals who are energetic, creative and make up a significant labour force. Governments have recognised that they have limited capacity to create jobs for millions of unemployed youth. Many of the governments have begun to push and encourage entrepreneurship programmes by providing general skills training and access to finance.
Entrepreneurship has been seen as the panacea to the youth unemployment challenges the continent is facing. However, each country faces different challenges such as the cost of business, inadequate electricity, transport and distribution challenges, high interest rates and general technical skills. Very often when African governments speak of entrepreneurship the focus is on agriculture which in countries like Zambia over 70% of the labour force is the agricultural sector. Other focus areas have included tourism, mining and construction. Even though governments are attempting to solve some of the challenges mentioned by deliberate policy action, there is one aspect that is often ignored. Governments need to establish mechanisms for the identification and development of individual talent and how it can fit into the broader spectrum of employment creation. The plethora of talent on the continent is diverse, but its economic potential has been largely unexploited. The talent in the scope of this piece is referencing sports and creative talent.
Unlike in developed countries where talent whether in sport or the creative space are seen as industries in Africa they are still largely considered as hobbies and recreational activities. For example, Select USA says that the U.S. film industry posted US$29 billion in revenue in 2015. The lack of support for the development of talent is one that stems from the household level and it ultimately translates at government level. Anything that is seen to shift children's attention from academics is not viewed as investment. This results in a jobs funnel where you have hundreds of thousands of school graduates competing for the few formal jobs, instead of a situation where an individual's talent can be leveraged to create their own employment. African governments need to start harnessing their country's talent as a means of chipping away at the unemployment Goliath. This can be done in a number of ways:-
Talent Identification and Development
Talent identification can be done in collaboration with schools. According children an opportunity to participate in as many activities as they can while they are young can be used to identify talent. As a child grows older it can be expected that they will gravitate towards a talent that they connect the most with. Teachers and parents have a critical role to play in this process as they are the adults in most contact with the children during this formative period. When the talent is identified it is important to develop it. This is where deliberate measures can be taken to introduce talent development programmes. The development programmes should not just be about improving the skills of the individuals but also how they can generate income from them.
The frustrating part about most youth who partake in sports or are creative in nature are that there are not enough opportunities for them to showcase their talents. Both government and the private sector can play a part by creating opportunities for the youth with talent, by introducing policies to utilise local talent for its activities and programmes as much as possible. In the event that the expertise is not available efforts must be made to build the capacity among the youth. Once these opportunities are created the youth must be made aware of them and also trained on how to identify opportunities. A person cannot seize an opportunity that they are not aware of.
The growth of one industry in the sports or creative sphere results in the development of other supporting industries. For example, music industry creates jobs for make-up artists, photographers, event organisers, advertisers, instrument players and the domino effect continues. This creates jobs in sectors that previously did not exist. It further results in fewer youth competing for the same pie but are seeking a totally different pie altogether. In terms of supporting creative and sports industries there needs to be diversity. In the initial stages it is fine to support limited industries through finances and policy measures but the overall plan should be to diversify. It is through this diversification that more job opportunities will be created.
It will take society changing the notion that formal employment is the pinnacle of career achievement. Efforts towards the changing beliefs that people who do not find formal employment or voluntarily choose to take alternative career paths are failures need to be made. Societal pressure fostered by family and friends cannot be under estimated in youth recognising that they have alternatives to employment. This is important because as long as youth still see formal employment as the ultimate goal, they close themselves out to an endless world of possibility that can come from using their talents. This is where role models can play a pivotal role by providing youth in the same space an example, inspiration and also a road map of what can be achieved with an individual's talent.
There are already millions of unemployed youth and millions more expected to join the statistics in the coming years. African governments need to be more proactive in the quest to create jobs for their citizens. This means using both the conventional methods of civil service recruitment but also the push of the entrepreneurship agenda. Further, encouraging youth to view their talents not only has hobbies but also job creation opportunities will be fundamental. Like the growth of every other industry on the continent it will need investment and support from all stakeholders from the household level to government level for it to succeed.