The African Economic Outlook 2012 (AEO 2012) has said, despite Nigeria’s robust economic growth, it has ‘failed’ to generate ‘decent’ employment while poverty has remained high and persistent.
The GDP growth rate was estimated by the AEO 2012 at 6.7 per cent in 2011, even though 7.36 per cent was reported by National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) at the end of 2011.
The growth rate is projected by the outlook, to move up to 6.9 per cent at the end of this year. The growth rate was as high as 7.8 per cent in 2010. Also, according to the report, the unemployment rate is currently at 23.9 per cent as against 21.1 per cent in 2010.
The AEO 2012, launched at the on-going Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB) in Arusha, Tanzania, gave the figure of unemployment rate among the youth in Nigeria as 37.7 per cent. The figure, it pointed out, was one of the highest in sub-Saharan Africa.
The AEO 2012 was jointly prepared by the AfDB, the OECD Development Centre, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Besides, the report cautioned that the nation’s economy remained vulnerable to global economic shocks that weigh on the fiscal position and macroeconomic stability, threatening growth prospects.
It added that to mitigate the negative impacts of the global economic crisis, the Federal Government pursued an expansionary fiscal policy to maintain growth and social sector spending that led to pressure on consumer prices.
The report nevertheless, stated that, a major challenge to increasing the absorptive capacity of the Nigerian economy was “the dilapidated state of infrastructure, in particular power, road transport and railways; and the overdependence of the economy on the oil and gas industry.”
These, it noted, were priorities for the transformation agenda of the current administration and were being addressed through the creation of an enabling environment for private sector participation in infrastructure development, and through the development of the non-oil sector.
The AEO 2012 also found that, in spite of the dominance of the oil sector, agriculture played a significant role in the national economy, accounting for the largest single share of GDP. “Sustainable growth in the agricultural sector is a principal factor in promoting inclusive economic growth, reducing poverty and ensuring the nation’s food security,” it pointed out.
Continent-wise, the AEO 2012 advised that with the number of youths in Africa set to double by 2045, countries across the continent should boost job creation and help young people acquire new skills. The youth, it posited, were an opportunity for future economic growth.
“Creating productive employment for Africa’s rapidly growing young population is an immense challenge but also the key to future prosperity”, said the report.
According to the report, between 2000 and 2008, despite improving economic growth rates, and a better educated youth, Africa created only 16 million jobs for young people aged between 15 and 24.
It stated: “The youth currently represent 60 per cent of the continent’s unemployed, and of these 40 million youths, 22 million have given up on finding a job, many of them women.”
Chief Economist and Vice-President of AfDB, Prof. Mthuli Ncube said: “The continent is experiencing jobless growth. That is an unacceptable reality on a continent with such an impressive pool of youth, talent and creativity”.
The report argued that youth unemployment figures would increase unless Africa moves swiftly to make youth employment a priority, turning its human capital into economic opportunity.
On the other hand, it added, youths could present a significant threat to social cohesion and political stability if they did not secure decent living conditions. The report also declared that high growth alone was not sufficient to guarantee productive employment,
“In low-income countries, most young people work but are poor nevertheless. In African middle-income countries, on the other hand, such as South Africa or the Northern African countries, despite better education, more youth are inactive than working”, said Director at the OECD Development Centre, Mario Pezzini.
The AEO 2012 recommended that African countries should design better coordinated strategies to effectively tackle youth employment, focusing on job creation in the private sector while providing the right conditions for businesses of all sizes to grow and expand their work force.