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Youth: Including Africa’s young people in food systems

In: 2020 Global food policy report: Building inclusive food systems


  • Mueller, Valerie
  • Rosenbach, Gracie
  • Thurlow, James


Almost 20 million people join the working-age population every year in Africa south of the Sahara (henceforth Africa). By 2050, that number will rise to 30 million a year and Africa will become the only region in the world contributing to growth in the global workforce (Figure 1).1 The absolute scale of Africa’s “youth bulge†raises questions about whether, in today’s more globalized and competitive world, the region can create enough job opportunities for young people, or whether much of Africa’s youth will be “excluded†from the benefits of economic development. It is not surprising then that many view Africa’s rapid population growth with some anxiety: African governments are concerned by the prospect of widespread youth unemployment, which could spark mass protests and threaten stability. Governments elsewhere in the world are concerned by an even greater exodus of African youth from the continent in search of work and a better life abroad. Yet these concerns may be overblown. The challenge of creating jobs for young people is not as daunting from the view of African countries themselves as it is from the perspective of developed countries with smaller populations. In fact, when the share of young people in the working-age population peaked in Africa at roughly 38 percent in 2001, it was not much larger than the peak share had been in other developing regions during their own youth bulges in the 1970s and 1980s. The need to emphasize employment for Africa’s youth does not imply that Africa has a “youth problem.†Moreover, while Africa as a region is experiencing a youth bulge, its timing varies widely across countries (Figure 2). In South Africa, for example, the share of youth in the workforce peaked in 1976, whereas it will only peak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2027. The pressure to create more jobs for young men and women is therefore unevenly felt within Africa.

Suggested Citation

  • Mueller, Valerie & Rosenbach, Gracie & Thurlow, James, 2020. "Youth: Including Africa’s young people in food systems," IFPRI book chapters, in: 2020 Global food policy report: Building inclusive food systems, chapter 3, pages 28-35, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  • Handle: RePEc:fpr:ifpric:9780896293670_03

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    Cited by:

    1. Agnes Quisumbing & Jessica Heckert & Simone Faas & Gayathri Ramani & Kalyani Raghunathan & Hazel Malapit, 2021. "Women’s empowerment and gender equality in agricultural value chains: evidence from four countries in Asia and Africa," Food Security: The Science, Sociology and Economics of Food Production and Access to Food, Springer;The International Society for Plant Pathology, vol. 13(5), pages 1101-1124, October.
    2. Quisumbing, Agnes & Heckert, Jessica & Faas, Simone & Ramani, Gayathri & Raghunathan, Kalyani & Malapit, Hazel & The pro-WEAI for Market Inclusion Study Team, 2022. "IFAD Research Series 74: Women’s empowerment, food systems, and nutrition," IFAD Research Series 321953, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).


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