AFDB seeks youth workforce maximization for West African economic delivery

• Report says region’s growth could contract further by -4.3%

The African Development Bank (AfDB), in its just-released Regional Economic Outlook 2020, has called on the West African countries to harness their youthful workforce for the speedy recovery of its economy post-COVID-19.

According to the Bank, growth in West Africa, which had been projected to expand by 4.0 per cent by year-end, was now projected to contract by -2.0 per cent in the same period.

The report noted that as a result of the pandemic, growth in the region could fall further by as much as -4.3 per cent in a worst-case scenario, as countries that depend on oil and tourism for foreign exchange and fiscal revenues would face reduced fiscal space and heightened external account imbalances, stoking a build-up of public debt.

This, notwithstanding, the report said West Africa’s budding youth population offers a strategic workforce that could be harnessed for employment and economic growth amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that is devastating the continent and global economies.
Speaking during the virtual launch of the report, Director-General, Regional Development and Business Delivery Office for West Africa, Marie-Laure Akin-Olugbade, said the region’s young population offered an opportunity to help speed up economic recovery.

However, she said the labour force participation rate for the working population had consistently declined since the beginning of the millennium from 64.2 per cent in 2000 to 58.5 per cent in 2019, noting that the report proffered policy recommendations to address the decline and reverse current trends.
Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, said the country was working with partners like AfDB on economic measures to minimize the impact of COVID-19.

Similarly, Ghana’s Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, said the economic impacts of the pandemic on the region had shown the need for economies to focus on building resilience in strategic sectors and accelerating regional integration.

In his remarks, Senior Director, Nigeria Country Department, AfDB, Ebrima Faal, said partnering with global technology companies could create avenues for research and development to boost skills development for the future.

The Regional Economic Outlook report highlighted developments in the region with particular emphasis on “Skills Development and Education for the Workforce of the Future,” and also investigated the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the report, the region ranked low in the human capital index, which measures the mobilization of the economic potential of citizens and has implications for the region’s capability to embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

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