As the world prepares to celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8, whose theme is 'DigitALL: Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality', it is an opportunity to reflect on Africa’s youth employment challenge, particularly its implications for women.
Since it is a day when thousands of women joined together and protested in New York City in 1908 for improved labour laws and the rights of women to vote, it also created a global platform for celebrating women's achievements, raising awareness about gender inequities, and increasing support for women worldwide.
And for many African countries, it is time to start reflecting on the future of the youth, the majority of whom are women.
We must focus on issues such as unemployment and develop relevant laws and policies to address sustainable gender quality.
Since Africa’s economic prosperity and social stability depend on what becomes of its youth, SDG Goal 5 on Gender Equality can leverage in driving financial inclusion.
According to World Data Lab (WDL) projections, by 2030, Africa will be home to almost 30 percent of the world’s population under 25, resulting in a larger future workforce.
African youth will grow from slightly above 510 million today to more than 610 million by 2030. An estimated 15 to 20 million of well-educated young people are expected to join the African workforce every year for the next two decades.
Despite this, women are still underrepresented in the workforce and technology field, which will be responsible for most future jobs.
For instance, data science is the highest-paying career in technology. A recent Business Analytics article shows demand for data scientists is booming and will only increase. Brian Holak, says that the need for data scientists has increased by 344 percent since 2013 and 29 percent over the previous year.
But in a tech company with more than 10,000 employees, women make up 26.2 percent of the workforce. It is also worth noting that the proportion of women working in all tech-related fields has fallen for the past two years.
A closer look at home Kenya, with a total population of 54 million people, with 17.9 million representing the youth between the ages of 17-35 years, we are no better.
WDL noted that 9.4 million youth are employed, while 7.1 million are inactive. Approximately 1.4 million youth are unemployed. Women in this category face the most challenges when finding employment.
While the largest employment sector in Kenya is agriculture, representing 3.2 million employed youth, only a few young people have invested in the industry, especially smart agriculture.
Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics says women in Kenya are less likely than men to be employed in the formal sector.
Only one-third of Kenyans in the formal sector are women. Women are also more likely to work in low-paying, informal jobs.
While the Government of Kenya has taken steps through the National Gender and Equality Act, more still needs to be done.
Some of the challenges Africa's youth face when finding employment are a mismatch between available skills and what is needed at the workplace. This is partly due to a need for more vocational training opportunities.
Research findings from WDL show that in Rwanda, vocational training courses have increased the probability of finding a job by 13 percent.
And in Kenya, getting a formal job after completing tertiary education has increased from 14 percent to 64 percent. While in Rwanda, it has risen from eight percent to 66 percent, effectively demonstrating the value of higher education.
The rising digital economy is shaping the future of work. It is easier for young people to start their own businesses.
Social media platforms have enabled young entrepreneurs to reach a global audience and crowdfunding platforms to raise capital.
To unpack these issues further, the WDL is spearheading the March 8th, 2023, Celebration in partnership with the University of Nairobi titled “Africa 2030 — where will jobs come from?”.
It will bring together experts from academia, government, and civil society to discuss the latest research and trends in African youth employment.
This builds on pioneering work that WDL and Mastercard Foundation are leading to develop a real-time job growth model for young Africans.