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A rapier not a blunderbuss: why the EU must do better in supporting African job creation

Research report

Written by Dirk Willem te Velde

Research report

Sub-Saharan Africa will need to create 18 million jobs each year until 2035 to accommodate young labour market entrants. The African Union and the European Union came together for a summit to address this challenge. 

The final declaration of the AU–EU Summit is understandably general, and ticks many boxes. However, it fails to grasp the detail that is needed to create jobs for the young, including the need to find targeted solutions to transform economies. This requires politically smart thinking around specific opportunities in specific countries. The declaration also fails to explicitly articulate its priorities on economic investments for structural transformation (priority 4) with the agenda on investment in people (priority 1), addressing education and training as a separate (though complementary) endeavour. There is a need for targeted but comprehensive job and transformation plans at country level, working around a few binding constraints to investment and to quality education and training that can create jobs, and bringing together the right public and private actors. This is not simply a matter of making finance available or changing general investment climate alone, but it is about solving co-ordination failures between public and private action and providing solutions to often specific problems that hold back job creating activities.

This paper is a joint briefing from the ETTG group to unpack the challenge of employment, and suggest priority actions forward for the AU–EU partnership.

Tilman Altenburg, San Bilal, Giulia Maci and Dirk Willem te Velde