Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Managing Director of the World Bank, on Friday called for a totally different approach towards looking for jobs in Africa and said it was time people looked at non-traditional jobs as good jobs and develop them.
She explained that non-traditional jobs such as sewing, carpentry, film making and others that required skills or could enable the youth to be self-employed should be streamlined and seen as good jobs instead of focusing on the formal sector for employment.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala was speaking at a conference organized by the Africa Commission on the topic: "African Youth and Employment."
The conference brought together ministers and officials from Ghana, Niger, Senegal, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Mali, Kenya, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Zambia in addition to representatives from Denmark and Australia.
The Africa Commission was established by the Danish Government with the objective of making international development cooperation responsive to the developmental needs of Africa with youth employment as its cardinal focus.
The conference chaired by Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, President of ECOWAS Commission, is expected to come out with recommendations to help the Africa solve unemployment problems.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala pointed out that Africans needed a different psychology about what jobs were and noted that individuals had the responsibility not only to create jobs for themselves but employ others to work in their organizations.
She cited an example of the film industry in Ghana and Nigeria and said these could be streamlined to be full time jobs instead of what they were now.
Mrs Mary Chinery-Hesse, Chief Adviser to the President, in a key note address said there was the need to rid the youth of the stigma of dependence and empower them with skills and strategies that would help them move Ghana and the whole of Africa forward.
"Leadership in Africa must constantly be mindful of this need to guarantee a good legacy informed by inter-generational issues," she said.
Mrs Chinery-Hesse said countries needed to develop public employment policies and strategies that specifically targeted the youth and expressed concern about street hawking which, she said, had become a major nuisance in many African cities.
"Joblessness fuels the propensity of young people to engage in crime and violence," she said, and added that the international community had not been spared the negative effects of unemployment among African youth.
Citing examples, she said over a 1,000 illegal immigrants died on their way to the Canary Islands from where they had hoped to continue to Europe.
Sharing Ghana's experiences in employment generation for the youth, Mrs Chinery-Hesse mentioned the Skills Training and Employment Programme through which young people are identified and attached to various apprenticeship programmes across the country.
She also mentioned the National Service Scheme, Voluntary Service Programme and the National Youth Employment Programme which, she noted, had already created about 108,000 jobs in about a year and hoped to create a total of 500,000 jobs in three years.
"The challenge of youth employment in Africa needs urgent attention and failure to address youth employment issues would have grave costs for the economy and society," Mrs Chinery-Hesse said.
Dr Chambas mentioned bottlenecks in improving the environment for enterprise development which include limited availability to assets for wealth creation as some major factors affecting youth employment in Africa.
"Creating the conducive environment for job creation and other legal income generation opportunities through entrepreneurship for the African youth will go a long way to help in empowering the youth and reducing poverty," Dr Chambas added.