African Economies are Booming, But Matching Labor Supply and Demand is a Challenge


Africa is on the rise. Once, nations like Ethiopia were poster children for poverty and starvation. Today Ethiopia is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. In fact, according to a report by Forbes, seven of the fastest growing global economies today are in Africa. North Africa expects average GDP growth rate of four to five percent by 2020, and Sub-Saharan Africa expects six to seven percent. Population experts expect explosive growth in Africa so that by 2100, 40 percent of the world's population will live in Africa.

However, despite all of these optimistic figures, unemployment still remains extremely high across parts of the continent. Unfortunately, this appears to be the result of a mismatch between education and employer requirements. Most African nations have sunk enormous amounts of money into programs to modernize education, but the economies of these nations do not yet have demand for these skills. For example, many have gained education in science and technology, but most of the available jobs in their resident nations remain focused on manufacturing, agriculture, and other, lower-tech careers.

As the population expands, that gap between available skills and available jobs could be bad news for African economies. Migrant workers may fill most jobs while African citizens remain woefully underemployed or they may leave the continent for better opportunities abroad. That means millions of dollars in subsidized education offering little or no benefit to the nation that paid for it.

To combat these issues, a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are attempting to attract more partner companies into the African continent to utilize the skills African citizens are learning. However, for these programs to succeed they need to effectively collaborate with the regional governments whose populations they serve. Many of these nations have underdeveloped infrastructure and cannot adequately support the service economy of a modern nation for which many of these individuals have been educated.

Thus, NGOs and government entities may need to divide their laborers to the tasks to which they are best suited. Governments can refocus their funding away from education programs that flow right out of the nation as the employees move to more receptive job markets and into the development of needed infrastructure. NGOs, on the other hand, can continue to cooperate with foreign companies to bring greater numbers of businesses into the region in need of skilled employees already present. In time, the unified efforts will help to balance the available workforce and job opportunities, keeping more money in Africa and spurring further economic growth and development.