Date: Wed, 24 Mar 1999 17:10:44 -0600 (CST)
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Rich Winkel)
Subject: Millions Of Africans To Remain Unemployed
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Copyright 1999 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Millions Will Remain Unemployed, Unless Economy Picks Up
By Philip Ngunjiri, IPS, 19 March 1999
NAIROBI, Mar 19 (IPS) - Millions in Africa will remain unemployed, unless the economies of most African countries pick up to create new jobs, says a top UN official.
Lalla Ben Barka, deputy executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), says employment has not kept pace with the increased labour supply.
"The average labour force is growing at about 3 percent per annum and there are declining stagnating levels of wage employment," she says.
Barka and some 350 participants from NGOs, government and UN agencies attended a conference on "Accelerating Social Development in Africa in the 21st century" in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi from March 15-17.
The conference, organised by the Ethiopia-based ECA, was a follow up to the 1995 global conference on Social Development held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1995.
The Copenhagen Summit recommended a 10-point plan of action countries would use to confront the far reaching issues of poverty, employment, and good governance within a given time frame.
Barka says unless urgent remedial measures to combat absolute poverty are taken "Africa will remain the only continent where poverty will continue to rise in the next century."
"One way to achieve this goal, is to enhance the human capital of the poor by ensuring their access to basic health care, education, nutrition, productive employment and sustainable livelihood methods," she says.
The UN International Labour Organisation (ILO) says little has been done to create new jobs in Africa since the Copenhagen summit.
It estimates, out of every 100 new jobs created between 1990 and 1995 in Africa, 50 were in agriculture, 40 in the urban informal sector, and 10 in the modern formal sector.
The UN labour body says there has been a structural shift away from the public sector towards small-scale and micro enterprises in the private sector.
"Open employment rate of 25 percent is reported in many countries," the ILO says, adding that, "Real wages have declined dramatically in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe."
"In most of these countries, estimated urban employment is around 20-30 percent, youthful unemployment at about 24-40 percent and women's unemployment at twice that of the national average," it adds.
Although the ECA says African governments have, on the average, improved in terms of Gross Domestic Product (gdp) growth since the Social Summit, these positive economic growth achievements have not been matched by recovery in the social sector such as education and healthcare in most of the countries.
"Given Africa's high population growth rates, we do not believe that the celebrations are in order yet," Barka says. "All these achievements fall far short of the required growth rate to reduce poverty by half by the year 2015."
Compared to the annual average rate of GDP growth of only one percent in the two years before the Summit, the rate of the continent's GDP growth increased to 3.2 percent on average four years after the summit.
Opening the conference this week, President Daniel arap Moi of Kenya said any region operating in an economic environment that is dominated by market forces will hardly achieve economic prosperity. '
"The continued existence of unfair trading practices have reduced demand for primary products which represent key exports for Africa," he said.
The situation, he added, continued to weaken the economic base of the eastern and southern African countries. "At the same time, it continues to undermine the capacity of the poor to meet their social basic needs," he said.(END/IPS/pn/mn/99)
[c] 1999, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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