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The West Africa Business Forum

The West Africa Business Forum
Empowering Women and Youths to Spur Africa’s Transformation Agenda
21 September, 2021 to 23 September, 2021
Lagos Continental Hotel, Federal Republic of Nigeria
The potential of young people is the driving force of our collective prosperity. This is particularly relevant to Africa, whose population is projected to represent over 40 per cent of the world’s young people, in less than three generations. By 2050, the teeming numbers of young Africans are forecast to constitute over a quarter of the world’s labour force. Moreover, there is a consensus that Africa’s youthfulness will continue to grow for the next 50 years while the other continents are ageing.[1] Almost 60 per cent of Africa’s population is under the age of 25, making Africa the world’s youngest continent.  This growth is attributed to high fertility coupled with declining child mortality.[2] The burgeoning youthfulness represents both an opportunity and a challenge for the continent. On the positive side, it provides an opportunity for the continent to address Africa’s sustainable development challenges. While the continent’s natural resources are vital, the creativity and innovation of its youthful population, carefully harnessed, through quality education, creation of productive jobs, could play a key role in driving the continent’s economic transformation. In other words, the continent could harness its demographic dynamics for sustainable development.
Nonetheless, African youths and women are yet to participate fully in and benefit from the continent development processes. The policy commitments at national and regional levels, have not always been matched by actions on the ground. Many youths and women are still jobless or in informal employment with few prospects and no representation, and they struggle to access public resources and quality social services. Concrete actions are required, to create decent jobs to the 16 million[3] unemployed young Africans seeking are facing unemployment, according to.[4] The City Alliance report shows that, on average, 11 million young people join the African labor market each year, yet the continent generates only 3.7 million jobs annually. For many women and youths, the informal sector is the default rather than the exception when it comes to employment. In Africa, informal employment as a percentage of total employment is very high, at 89 per cent, consequently many young women and men lack access to social safety nets or any form of workers’ rights.
The case of West Africa is particularly important as the important youth bulge could translated into demographic dividends.[5] These can be achieved by educating, empowering and motivating the youths to engage in innovative wealth creation activities in various sectors.

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[1]UNECA, 2017. “Africa’s Youth and Prospects for Inclusive Development”.
[2]City Alliance, 2020. “The Burgeoning Africa Youth Population: Potential or Challenge?”
[3] City Alliance, 2020 “The Burgeoning Africa Youth Population: Potential or Challenge?”
[4] Ibid.
[5] ECOWAS, 2021. “ECOWAS Engages Youth and Women in its Vision 2050”.