The Joint Youth Employment Initiative originated from the Bank Senior Management’s commitment to address the challenge of youth unemployment in Africa and the African Union’s (AU) decision to tackle youth unemployment in the continent. During the AU’s 17th Ordinary Session held in Malabo in July 2011, the Heads of States requested the Bank to work with the African Union Commission, regional economic communities, and other international development partners to develop a comprehensive pact to reduce youth unemployment, with strong ownership by governments, the private sector, and youth organizations.
Despite the numerous ongoing interventions on youth employment in Africa, high youth unemployment in Africa, high youth unemployment and underemployment exists. There are also issues of youth employment that have not been well addressed. Weaknesses and challenges that have been identified include weak implementation of commitments, plans, and declarations; fragmented and uncoordinated efforts; scarcity of knowledge, information and lessons learned; absence of regular, reliable, and harmonized labour market data on youth employment; poor participation of youth in employment policies and programs; lack of involvement of the private sector; insubstantial focus on the informal sector; and adequate demand–side responses.
Based on these gaps partners have adopted a two-step approach to implement the initiative. First is mapping and analysing all policies, stakeholders, and instruments directed toward youth employment at the country level and capitalizing on what exists. Second is developing and implementing the action plans.
The added value of this initiative is anchored in the comparative advantages of its partner institutions and the above approach. It is reflected at five levels: the diagnosis and mapping exercise at the country level; changes at the political level through intergovernmental frameworks and the commitment of the decision-makers in countries: knowledge production and sharing according to the experience of the partners; implementation of innovative projects; and impact evaluation.
The bank has undertaken studies and activities targeted at youth employment. Examples include the note prepared by the joint youth Employment Initiative team to provide back-ground for the 2012 African Economic Out-look, which focused on youth employment; the pilot exercise of labour-based job creation under the Burkina Faso-Togo regional road project approved by the Board on June 27, 2012; the preparation of flagship reports on youth employment for several African Countries, including Ethiopia, Morocco, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia; the analysis on efficiency and employment-related challenges; the Souk At-Tanmia project to boost youth employment in Tunisia and soon in Togo; and the translation and printing of the AU white book on youth employment distributed during the last AU Heads of States Summit in Addis Ababa in January 2013.
Moreover the Bank and the international labour Organization, as the operational institutions for the initiative, have started several joint activities. Such activities include the mapping and diagnostic exercise of the labour markets of Burkina Faso and Senegal; the Bank’s staff capacity-building on main-streaming youth employment in operations and policies; and the evaluation of the impact of the Bank’s operations on employment.
On the 12th April 2013, the JYEIA has been officially launched by African Ministers of Labour and Employment, during the 9th Ordinary Session of the AU Labour and Social Affairs Commission in Addis-Ababa. The letter of intent has been signed in Addis-Ababa by representatives of the 4 partner organizations on September 12th, 2013. The document reflects their commitment of technical and financial resources to launch the proposed activities in the framework of the initiative.