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Equip Kenyan youth, women for opportunities in expanded Africa

Monday November 11 2019

While attending the 23rd Intergovernmental Committee of Senior Officials and Experts (ICSOE) meeting as a private sector and youth participant, one topic that inspired me was “Faster implementation of AfCFTA (African Continental Free Trade Area) for job creation for the youth”.

The theme of the meeting organised by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (Uneca) in Asmara, Eritrea, was “Leveraging new opportunities for regional integration in East Africa”.

There are many ways African youth and women can benefit from the African Continental Free Trade Area.

Besides market linkages and increased intra-African exports, crucially, it is estimated that the bloc will create almost two million jobs.

Africa has a very high youth unemployment rate and countries should equip their young people for the jobs.

In the white-collar segment, for instance, mismatch between education and the labour market is a leading causes of unemployment.

FOOD SECURITY

Credentials from African universities should be acceptable all over and outdated education curricula banned.

Improved demand for products means increased supply, hence the need to expand the workforce to deliver orders on time and with quality goods and/or services.

Africa imports more than $500 billion food annually yet it is favoured in both geographical and demographic factors to be the world’s food basket.

Sadly, the average age of an African farmer is 60 years yet the youth can feed the world by ensuring food security and value addition of agricultural produce.

Agriculture is the backbone of most African countries. Therefore, agriculture/agribusiness should be the largest employment and entrepreneurship sector.

JOB AVENUES

The youth can also use their talents to benefit from the free movement of goods and services.

They can also expose themselves to information and opportunities that will build them.

One of the biggest sectors in AfCFTA is services, where the youth can be employed or create jobs for themselves through technology.

Kenyan youth can partner with their peers from other African countries to register companies and win tenders from the government, NGOs and the private sector.

They can take advantage of 30 per cent Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (Agpo) programme and leverage on opportunities in tourism.

For AfCFTA to be successful, we need to bring the private sector, women and youth on board in all conversations and discussions as well as in policy formulation and advocacy.

The information on AfCFTA should also be simplified so that the youth and women in private sector can understand what it means to them and their businesses, and that will help them to take full advantage of it.

Linda Chepkwony is a youth and women trade consultant, 254 YEAMP Awards 2019 (Exports category) and Zuri Awards 2019 (Business) winner.