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Africa has the capacity to create employment

By Vision Reporter

Added 21st July 2010 03:00 AM

THE road to Africa’s economic transformation is long and bumpy, but unavoidable. Until 2009 when economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa fell to 2% from 5 to 7% beforehand, policy makers were more focused on exploring innovative approaches to address widening income inequality across regions. A sce

THE road to Africa’s economic transformation is long and bumpy, but unavoidable. Until 2009 when economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa fell to 2% from 5 to 7% beforehand, policy makers were more focused on exploring innovative approaches to address widening income inequality across regions. A scenario that has aggravated tensions and made shocks more destabilising.

Shocks like climate change will hit low-income countries soonest and hardest, and without action, Africa will suffer more from drought, flooding, flood shortages and disease, probably provoking instability and conflict. This and other challenges are serious, but not insurmountable.

Presently, there is a weak linkage between growth and job creation, income distribution and social welfare. To cure the mismatch, structural changes need to target labour intensive sectors such as agriculture, fishing and services, deliberately focusing on unemployment and under-employment.

It is critical that productive job-creation strategies are explicitly defined rather than simply viewed as a desirable outcome of all the development efforts. The youth and women need to be targeted specifically.

The private sector can play a role in creating jobs, but governments cannot run away from their responsibility of creating an enabling environment and appropriate infrastructure investments.

Governments should also identify industries and business sub-sectors that will increase productivity and greater job creation. The revival of the Uganda Development Co-operation (UDC), was an attempt by Government to do exactly that, but deliberate measure to bridge the skills gap are necessary.

The Government can do this by targeting vocational training, mentorships, apprenticeships and managerial skills. Also key is a robust mechanism to effectively trace the number and quality of jobs created or lost.

Local governments should be supported to generate data on macro-economic linkages at that level to feed into the national level.

The UDC should also target economic transformation of raw materials to cause effective and sustainable industrial development opportunities.

Dependence on production and export of unprocessed agricultural products makes us vulnerable to international price fluctuations. A well-developed and competitive agro-industrial sector would create huge potential for income generation and employment opportunities in farming and related activities. That is the processing, handling, packaging, transportation and marketing sectors. There is urgent need for increased public investment in agriculture.

Africa continues to face numerous challenges and constraints, especially in agricultural business and the agro-industrial sector. Some of the challenges include — lack of industrial capacity, low levels of entrepreneurship, inadequate energy and infrastructure and low income levels of the existing enterprises.

National and regional policies to facilitate trade should be enhanced.

Generation of growth and promotion of competitiveness are crucial components of economic development. Development would mean growth in incomes, employment and poverty reduction.

African countries have examples to learn from Asia in particular, where industrialisation in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore was propelled by implementing policies that promoted the creation of special investment and export processing zones.

If African countries continue to rely on export of raw materials and do little on development of a manufacturing sector, the stagnation we are in will not go away any time soon. There are internal challenges, but if we approach them systematically, we can create employment opportunities.
The writer is a member of parliament of the East Africa Legislative Assembly

Africa has the capacity to create employment

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