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Secretary-General arrives in South Africa for youth unemployment dialogue

11 July 2018

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland is traveling to Johannesburg, South Africa for a dialogue on youth employment. She will join policy makers from across the globe to explore solutions to worryingly high levels of youth unemployment in the Sub-Saharan region.

“Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest net migration rate in the world. Young people are leaving in droves because they simply cannot find jobs,” said Secretary-General Scotland.

She added, “The outlook for youth unemployment in the region is bleak and gives cause for great concern. According to the Africa Development Bank, nearly 50 percent of the young people in Sub-Saharan Africa will be unemployed or economically inactive by 2025, if we don’t act decisively and soon to change the current course.

“Our aim this week is to explore what policymakers, supported by the intergovernmental and other connections made possible through Commonwealth collaboration, can do to address the yawning gap in services that is at the root of this complex and serious problem; and ensure that everyone, particularly young women, minorities, people with disabilities and those affected by HIV/AIDs are offered opportunities whenever appropriate to be included in the workforce.”

At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London this year, leaders stressed the importance of creating meaningful employment opportunities for the Commonwealth’s burgeoning youth population. They agreed on the need to invest in systematic and comprehensive programmes that prioritise quality education and includes skills building, apprenticeships and support for young entrepreneurs.

The Commonwealth is already working on a number of initiatives to address youth unemployment. In addition to policy guides and toolkits, the organisation pioneered a Youth Credit Initiative, which formed the basis of a number of national youth entrepreneurship programmes.

It also facilitated the training of government officials in youth entrepreneurship policy and practice, and established networks of young entrepreneurs in the East, Southern and West Africa as part of its Commonwealth Alliance of Young Entrepreneurs programme.

The dialogue this week was organised by Wilton Park, an executive agency of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office that provides a global forum for strategic, policy-shaping discussions on issues such as international security, prosperity and justice. It is being delivered in collaboration with the Commonwealth Secretariat, the UK Department for International Development, the British Council, Restless Development the Institute of Development Studies.

Wilton Park programme director, Alison Hilliard, said, “This Wilton Park event is the fifth in the ‘Wilton Park Youth Dialogues: Powering the Future’ series, which focuses on young people, with a view to generating positive and action-orientated debate.

“This event will discuss the complex picture of youth unemployment and underemployment in sub-Saharan Africa, looking at how to address barriers to youth participation in decent work and identifying more comprehensive solutions in the face of macroeconomic and demographic challenges.”

This is the Commonwealth Secretary-General’s first official visit to South Africa. While in the country, she will meet government officials to discuss collaboration on issues such as climate change, the environment, health, youth, education, gender and law reform.

The Secretary-General will also attend celebrations marking the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth. 

Learn more about the ‘Boosting youth employment in Sub-Saharan Africa: creating opportunities and building skills’ dialogue