Africa’s labour force to increase in 2040

05 Sep 2011

Africa’s labour force is expected to reach 1.1 billion by 2040, surpassing that of China and India, says the “Lions on the Move: the progress and potential of African Economies”, a research project conducted by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI).

The project sought to examine Africa’s economies, its sources of economic growth acceleration since 2000 as well as understand some of the most compelling opportunities ahead.

“If Africa can provide its young people with education and the skills they need, this large workforce could account for a significant share of global consumption and production,” the report further states.

The report attributes these positive strides behind Africa’s economic growth to the political reforms and stability that have fostered economic growth.

Moreover, the report further suggests that the macroeconomic and microeconomic reform as well as the reduction on foreign debt by many African countries have equally energised the African economy.

However, according to one of the co-authors of the report, Arend van Wamelen, a Principal at McKinsey and Company, although Africa has the potential to be one of the main suppliers of workforce in the world, the performance outcome is still worrisome.

He added that despite progressive steps in primary and secondary education enrollment, Africa still has a significant challenge ahead in improving the quality of its education.

Van Wamelen, revealed this during his presentation at the recently ended Conference of the Youth Alliance for Leadership Development in Africa (YALDA) held in Gaborone.

Presenting the topic, “More than a resource Boom: Understanding Africa’s Growth story,” van Wamelen added that some surveys done in Africa and other developing countries suggest that basic skills in reading and mathematics remain low.

Van Wamelen further encouraged African governments to continue creating attractive business environments, especially on the consumer-facing industries, resources, agriculture and infrastructure, since these four industries have the potential of sustaining Africa’s growing economy.

He underscored the fact that though Africa accounts for 60 percent of the world’s arable land, food production is still low. He believes this is because of lack of knowledge on fertiliser use, availability of seeds, pricing and the long supply chains from the producer to the consumer.

As such, he emphasised the need for Africans to fully utilise the available arable land and also African governments to take seriously resource and infrastructure development in order to ensure sustainability.

Despite the positive prospects on Africa’s projected workforce, one of the important factors that most attendants felt Van Wamelen and the report he co-authored failed to do, was to clearly highlight the kind of workforce that is being projected.

They said that the report failed to state if the projected workforce entails professionals or just cheap labour since Africa has been regarded as a source of cheap labour.