Solution to African unemployment is within our reach —UN African Coordinator
•Says agro-value addition ’ll create 17m jobs, $1trn economy by 2030
The United Nations Environment Programme Climate Change Coordinator for Africa, Dr. Richard Munang, has said that the solution to unemployment in Africa is within reach, even as he declared that the prevalent social vices and insecurity on the continent are consequences of unemployment.
The UNEP Climate Change Coordinator for Africa also stated that agro-value addition is projected to create no less than 17 million jobs across Africa and create a $1 trillion economy by 2030.
Besides, Dr Munang, who spoke to Nigerian Tribune on the huge unemployment problem on the continent and how it could be addressed, said Africa’s unemployment problem boiled down to the failure of its citizens to take responsibility in developing their country and continent.
He pointed out that high rate of unemployment had persisted because her citizens are fond of putting selfish interests before the urgency to develop solutions to the continent’s challenges.
“Every door has its own key. Africa’s unemployment has its own key, and that key lies in us. Let us therefore be encouraged that the chronic unemployment challenge has a solution that is within our reach,” he said.
Painting the grave picture of unemployment situation across Africa, comparable to other continents, he pointed out that in 2019, the average global unemployment had been reported to have reached the lowest levels in a decade at five per cent, and the number of people with jobs had increased in the world’s largest economies.
However, Dr Munang stated that in Africa, the situation is not as rosy; adding, “unemployment is projected to have risen to exceed 30 per cent in 2019 and young people will continue to be 3.5 times more likely than adults to be unemployed.”
He added: “Social vices and insecurity are obvious consequences of unemployment and they are before our eyes daily. But most important is solution to the unemployment challenge. And for this, I think an African proverb puts this into perspective; that ‘one who causes others misfortune also teaches them wisdom.’ Simply, this proverb reminds us that the challenges we face are disguised opportunities.”
He pointed out that among most notable challenges Africa faces that can be turned to become solutions to the high unemployment rate is the high post-harvest losses experienced in the continent.
He explained that Africa loses food worth $48 billion each year due to post-harvest losses, while to cover for these losses, food worth $35 billion is imported into the continent.
He said, “This implies that $83 billion can be recouped and turned into income opportunities along the entire value chain if the continent prioritises value addition to reverse these losses.
“Second question is how we can add this value. For this, we must remember that a man does not wander far from where his corn is roasting.”
This African proverb reminds us that the focus should be on leveraging on areas of our strength as a continent. Here, clean energy, especially solar comes to mind. Africa has the best solar resource in the entire planet.
“Just 0.3 per cent of the sun that shines the Sahara is equivalent to nearly all of Europe’s energy needs. Fabricating simple and accessible solutions like solar driers, to harness this energy and use it to power preservation and conversion of agro-produce into various products will be taking us multiple steps ahead in converting the post-harvest losses into incomes and jobs.”
Citing the examples, he said: “In Cameroon; the use of solar driers among cassava farmers where cassava is converted into dried cassava chips that can be preserved for longer time, sold to millers to be further processed into cassava flour or eaten as it is or fried into cassava chips; has seen incomes increase by 150 per cent and loss reduce by 30%. In Kenya, the use of solar driers to dry rice has proven to be 48 times faster than traditional open sun drying and result in better quality, cleaner, more hygienic rice that fetches more in the market.”
He added “The result in losses is being converted into incomes and jobs for youth engaged in solar drier fabrication as well as those interested in agro-value addition. Cumulatively, agro-value addition is projected to create no less than 17million jobs across Africa and create a $1trillon economy by 2030. The solution, value addition and starting off with very accessible areas like fabricating solar driers and decentralising these to power various processes across different value chains.”