Hopes are high that the private sector will take the lead in tackling unemployment in Sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, such confidence should not negate state responsibility for employment creation. National governments have a key role to play in making job creation inclusive. This implies lifting the constraints that especially young and female entrepreneurs face, creating a stable business environment, and promoting links to the local economy so that (international) businesses and entrepreneurs can innovate, invest and grow and, hence, create jobs.

This was the main message from INCLUDE’s roundtable discussion on ‘Productive Employment’, hosted by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 15 December 2016. During separate breakout sessions, participants discussed the employment potential of key economic sectors: agriculture, industry & manufacturing, infrastructure & construction, and services & ICT. This was followed by a plenary and interactive discussion on how entrepreneurs, particularly female entrepreneurs, can be supported to expand their businesses and create jobs.

The key messages that emerged from the meeting are as follows:

  • Job creation should be the top priority in national development plans. Employment programmes need to be positioned in key ministries and properly coordinated.
  • Although the private sector in the end creates job opportunities, national governments are responsible for guaranteeing a business environment that allows entrepreneurs to grow and hire employees. Partnerships between governments and the private sector are key to overcoming governance challenges and conflicts of interests.
  • Rather than a sector-based approach, national employment strategies should recognize the heterogeneity and interdependence of different sectors. Investments in a certain sector (e.g. ICT) have the potential to spill over to other sectors, thereby having a multiplier effect on employment.
  • The organization of small-scale farmers is key to successful value chain integration; however, farmers are a heterogeneous group and should be provided with choices as to how they are organized, contracted and trained.
  • Public and private investment projects (e.g. in industry and infrastructure) should be embedded in the local economy.
  • Development plans should be focused on lifting the constraints that informal workers face and on making sure that theybenefit from being regulated and/or formalized.
  • Women require specific attention in employment programmes; government policy should be particularly geared towards supporting women’s organizations.

In preparation of the roundtable discussion, the INCLUDE Secretariat drafted a discussion paper ‘Productive employment for inclusive development in Africa– what do we know?’. You can find this discussion paper here.


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