Is World Youth Skills Day relevant to Africa?

Published Sep 14, 2023


Noxolo Mnisi

World Youth Skills Day is dedicated to recognising the challenges faced by young people globally and advocating for their empowerment. In the context of Africa, where a burgeoning youth population eagerly awaits their rightful place in the job market, this day holds particular relevance. Africa stands at a critical juncture where addressing youth unemployment and fostering the development of job skills can unlock the continent’s potential and pave the way for sustainable economic growth.

Throw technological advancement and ever-shifting labour market requirements into the mix, and we soon see that the alarming and unpalatable truth is that Africa’s youth is lagging 65% behind their international peers when it comes to skills development, according to the latest statistics from the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The Alliance for YOUth (all4YOUth) is a global coalition of like-minded companies working together to help young people worldwide acquire the necessary skills to thrive in the world of work. In sub-Saharan Africa, the All4YOUth Sub-Saharan Alliance, led by various multinational companies, spearheads a collaborative intervention with the primary objective of creating and implementing employability programmes, mentorship and training initiatives to equip youth with essential workplace skills.

The Sub-Saharan Alliance is at the forefront of drawing attention to this untapped human potential and the collective efforts required from stakeholders across the continent to unlock it. World Youth Skills Day urges everyone to not just pay lip service to these imperatives, but to take real, results-driven action in addressing what has become a dire crisis. Within the context of this year’s theme for World Skills Day – “Skilling Trainers, Educators and the Youth for a Transformative Future” – it is worthwhile noting the important role educators need to play in enabling this transformation. But this task is not teachers’ burden to carry alone. Youth employment and skills development require a multifaceted approach that encompasses skills development, education, entrepreneurship, and a conducive framework for growth in both private sector and government initiatives.


Education and skills development lie at the core of addressing youth unemployment. In many African countries, access to quality education remains a significant challenge. World Youth Skills Day serves as a rallying call for governments, organisations and the private sector to prioritise investment in education and skills development; bridging the gap between formal education and the demands of a private sector job market focused on ability and results. The job market is uninterested in political window-dressing that only pays lip service to the real issue of youth unemployment – and this is a factor that many NGOs and governments need to address. By equipping young Africans with relevant and marketable real-world skills through job-market focused education, we empower them to become catalysts for change and economic prosperity.


World Youth Skills Day presents a unique opportunity to advocate for policies that prioritise the needs and aspirations of young people. Governments must create enabling environments that foster entrepreneurship and innovation, create access to resources and finance, and encourage young Africans to seize opportunities and become job creators themselves. Merely creating yet more government administration jobs that are unproductive and irrelevant to the private sector job market will not suffice.


Collaboration lies at the heart of addressing youth unemployment in Africa. World Youth Skills Day serves as a catalyst for fostering partnerships between governments, private sector enterprises, educational institutions and youth organisations. Through collaboration, stakeholders can pool their resources, expertise and networks to develop comprehensive programmes that bridge the skills gap and provide young people with practical training and employment opportunities.


One of the greatest hurdles faced by young Africans is the prevalence of negative stereotypes and misconceptions that undermine their potential. World Youth Skills Day challenges these perceptions, shining a light on the energy, creativity and drive of young people. By showcasing success stories and promoting positive narratives, we can redefine societal perceptions – enabling young Africans to emerge as drivers of change, economic growth and social progress. So can World Youth Skills Day really make a difference? I believe the answer is a resounding “yes”, but with a caveat: youth skills development requires ongoing initiatives and input from all stakeholders – not just one day a year.

  • Noxolo Mnisi represents Alliance for Youth, Sub-Saharan Africa and is the senior talent acquisitions and management partner and youth lead at Nestlé East and Southern Africa.