High youth unemployment is one of the growing problems in Africa. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), unemployment rate among youth in Northern Africa was at 29.3% in 2016.
The situation in sub-Saharan Africa is only slightly better where the youth unemployment rate was at 10.8% last year. In South Africa, more than half of all active youth were unemployed in 2016, representing the highest youth unemployment rate in the region.
However, that’s not the biggest problem here. Predictions say that youth unemployment will continue to rise in the following years. High unemployment has negative consequences on the economy of the country and population. Young people leave their country of birth to find employment abroad.
Finding the right solution for this problem isn’t an easy thing to do. It requires cooperation of regional and national institutions, an in-depth analysis of the problem and the active participation of everyone.
Fortunately, technology may be able to provide some solutions. We live in the digital age. Modern technology has shaped our world and it has impacted our lives tremendously.
Science and technology can be used to solve some of the world's biggest problems. For example, Singularity University in the US is teaching people how to leverage exponential technology to positively impact 1 billion people. This goes to show how big of an impact technology can have on the world we live in.
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Good technology infrastructure is the most important requirement for any technology-based solution. It is to crucial to invest more in good internet connection, computer and mobile equipment, networks and other IT-related support.
Internet access in Africa is limited compared to the rest of the world. According to the International Telecommunication Union, 25% of population in Africa uses Internet, which is considerably less compared to other continents.
Moreover, schools, universities and education centers aren’t fully equipped with modern fast computers and other technology devices. When it comes to mobile technology, the situation is slightly better. More than half a billion people across Africa now subscribe to mobile services. Still, a large part of African population doesn’t have access to mobile devices.
The importance of technology in African schools and universities is central. Many local schools have poor access to computers and Internet. It is significant to integrate technology into school curricula. Technology is evolving rapidly and the demand for digitally skilled workforce will continue to grow in the future. Countries and governments should adapt their education system to the fast-changing world and market demands. Technology skilled workers have less trouble finding the right job or taking advantage of business opportunities in South Africa and beyond.
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Fighting youth unemployment with mobile phones sounds like a questionable approach. However, mobile technology could be the right solutions. The power of mobile technology is often underrated. In 2015, technology company developed a platform which sends a daily forecast via SMS to small-scale farmers in west Africa in partnership with major telecommunication firms.
You just need a mobile phone with a sim card. Similarly, a platform like giraffe in South Africa that connects employers and job seekers via SMS would be a good solution for seasonal, short term or everyday jobs. Unemployed individuals would receive an SMS notification about available jobs and they could reply by sending their skills and experience.
Africa lacks skilled workforce. E-learning platforms are one of the most popular form of education today. Studying has never been easier and accessible. Anyone can attend some of the best lectures in the world from anywhere in the world.
There are unlimited resources of free training materials on the Internet. For example, live group trainings can be organized for African students. You just need an Internet connection and a computer. Skilled workforce is welcomed in any organization. Not to mention that for many occupations like marketing, programming or consulting, physical presence in the organization is not needed. Moreover, online job fairs are a great way for employers and job seekers to meet and talk about potential job opportunities.
Technology innovation centers like the Bandwidth Barn in Cape Town South Africa or iHub in Kenya could spark networking, discussion and active participation of interested groups. Next step is investing in African start-up companies. Startup companies solve problems using technology.
Africa is a continent with many difficulties. Creative and problem solving ideas are the base of any start-up company. And the best ideas come from the people who have experienced the problem. Technology makes it easy to start a business on the internet where you can get started with a domain, hosting and email accounts for a small fee from providers like Bluehost.
Startups that tackle and solve social, ecological, food or any other problem would generate new partnerships and job opportunities. Innovative start-up companies would not just help in solving some big problem, but they would provide new jobs for the unemployed youth.
David Smith is a blogger and world traveler, with experience in China's manufacturing industry as well as social media marketing in his hometown of Los Angeles, California.