Unemployment in Africa: analysis

Unemployment is defined as a phenomenon that occurs when a person who is actively seeking employment is unable to find work. Unemployment is often used to measure the health of the economy There are types of unemployment: cyclical, structural and frictional unemployment. The problem of unemployment is a major concern on a world scale but is particularly prevalent in the African continent.

Frictional unemployment

Frictional unemployment can best be defined as a situation in which workers leave their jobs in search of new jobs with better remuneration or better working conditions. This was seen in Zimbabwe where the worsening economic meltdown led to mass migration of workers to South Africa, Botswana and countries beyond Africa. When several companies including Hunyani Timbers in Marondera, Mashonaland East, Cold Storage Commission, Delta Beverages and Marondera closed, the immediate impact was a loss in revenue from income tax and corporate tax, a decline in living standards, an increase in the rate of social ills such as crime and a burden on the coffers to fund unemployment benefits.

Cyclical unemployment

Cyclical unemployment occurs when workers lose their jobs due to fluctuations in the business cycle in as far as output is concerned. This has negative effects and impacts on economic growth and development. This was seen when car exports in South Africa dropped by 22%.Other states including Uganda and Egypt have been victims of this unemployment brought on by  low business activity.

Structural unemployment

Structural unemployment occurs when there is a mismatch between the available jobs and the skill level of the unemployed. If caution is not taken by policy makers, this may potentially   create a high rate of unemployment. Technological advances often contribute to structural unemployment. Zimbabwe experienced this when the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council introduced the E-marking of selected exams.

A bulk of African economies possess natural resources such as minerals and forestry that are not fully exploited for employment creation.  Additionally, Africa’s has a pressing need for waste management. The failure to effectively manage the disposal of waste leads to the outbreak of disease and flooding. local authorities need to call upon investors to invest in these areas. This will contribute to reducing unemployment and will increase the government revenue through tax, infrastructure development, and above all economic development.

However, it is of greater cognizance to ensure that in implementing these solutions there must be great caution in ensuring that other macro-economic objectives are not ignored such as inflation, economic growth, and balance of payment and exchanged rates.  Above all it is crucial that, investment policies are conducive enough to lure meaningful investment for economic turnaround.


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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.

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