When the world rebuilds after the COVID-19 crisis, Africa will have a unique challenge to face: bringing its overwhelmingly young workforce into decent, productive, and secure jobs. Africa has the world’s youngest population, a fact that some hope will mean fewer deaths and serious cases, despite the region’s health care systems being extremely underfunded.
Even before the global pandemic, many young Africans struggled to find productive employment, often finding themselves underemployed or perpetually engaged in low-paid, low-productivity, precarious self-employment. This trend, paired with a persistent, although, we argue, unfounded, worry among political leaders and the international community that some frustrated young people may turn to violent crime, militant extremism, or protest, has fostered a plethora of youth employment initiatives. Most of these initiatives focus on delivering post-school vocational training or entrepreneurship coaching to young people—and their impacts on youth earnings or the overall economy have not been particularly encouraging.