The root cause, nature, and solutions to youth unemployment on the continent of Africa were the subjects of discussion at the Grant Close-Out Workshop organised by the ARUA Centre of Excellence for Unemployment and Skills Development (ARUA-COE) at the University of Lagos on Wednesday, December 21, 2022.
Held at the Bank of Industry/UNILAG Co-Working & Incubation Hub, the blended event provided opportunities for the Centre to present the works of its researchers in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa; and the impacts of its activities in the respective countries.
In his welcome address, Director of the Centre, Professor Sunday Adebisi, described the workshop as the culmination of a three-year journey, funded by a UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) grant, that has yielded immense dividends.
“The UKRI grant which we used to kickstart our research started in September 2019. It was used to establish our centre and to finance our project titled, “Partnership, Research, and Capacity Building for Youth Unemployment Solutions in Africa (PRAC-4-YUSA)”. Within one year of operations, we got the supportive attention of the Nigerian president; and from out grant, we have hosted three conferences and three Youth Business and Innovation Competitions (YoBIC) in Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa. We believe that if the problem of youth employment is solved, Africa will become globally competitive; and we are here today to tell you how far we have come with that”, he said.
A visibly delighted Vice-Chancellor, Professor Folasade Ogunsola, FAS, was present at the occasion with some other members of Management. She spoke highly of the Centre and the continental impacts it is already making.
Her words: “I am proud to be here to share the results of this Centre with the world. I am equally delighted to say that the outcomes of the work done here typifies the great solutions that can ensue from South-South collaborations, if we take it more seriously. It is becoming clear that as knowledge generation accelerates, Town and Gown must work more closely together for the advancement of the society that we seek to serve. There can be no development when the Ivory Tower is divorced from the market for which it produces manpower.”
Professor Jackson Maalu from the University of Nairobi (Kenya), Professor Kesh Govinder from University of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa), and Dr. Priscilla Baffour from the University of Ghana all presented reports on the youth unemployment situation in their respective countries, based on their participation in the research project. Common threads that ran through their findings include the incidence of high youth unemployment on the continent, a plethora of interventionist programmes by government that hardly address the problem, and the immense potentials that exist among the youths for building successful enterprises.
Professor Tony Bailetti of Carleton University, Canada, made a virtual presentation at the workshop. Among other things, he posited that good governance and the confidence of African youths in themselves are key to the emergence and flourishing of youth enterprises in Africa.
The ARUA Centre of Excellence for Unemployment and Skills Development (ARUA, CoE-USD) at the University of Lagos is saddled with the primary objective of tackling the challenges of youth unemployment, using a stakeholder network approach which involves academic and non-academic institutions with the shared vision of developing integrated approaches to maximise youth employment opportunities in Africa. Its recently concluded project was funded by a grant it won from the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) in 2019.