In September 2009, a year before the Arab Spring started, I brought forth the issue of youth unemployment in Africa at the UN General Assembly. At the time, African youth made up 37 percent of the working age population in Africa and an overwhelming 60 percent of the unemployed. Indeed, youth unemployment still poses a grave security threat to many countries in Africa. With many African countries undergoing rapid development, the ability to create jobs to match the pace of development is important to ensure that peace is sustained. Moreover, it is especially important to instill a sense of hope, among the youth, for their future so that they can help to reinforce this stability and continue the cycle of growth. In my country, Tanzania, the most recent figure indicates that approximately 8.8 percent of youth are unemployed. Although the figure may not seem very high, the youth comprises a large portion of the Tanzanian population, therefore, it is vital that their educational and vocational needs are met.

In order to help the youth achieve their full potential, they must be given access to institutions where they can learn practical skills such as leadership and entrepreneurship. If provided these opportunities, job seekers can become job creators. Since 2007, my government has created 26 vocational training institutes so the youth can obtain the required skills through the Vocation Education and Training Authority (VETA). VETA is the government agency in Tanzania that is responsible for coordinating, regulating, financing, providing and promoting vocational education. Last year alone, 1,026 youth were given the opportunity to learn entrepreneurial skills. Vocational training does not simply fill a gap in education, it also increases the earning potential of a Tanzanian citizen.

While the total unemployment rate in Tanzania has dropped from 11.7 percent in 2006 to 10.7 percent in 2011, youth unemployment is still an issue of great concern.  More recently, there has been less foreign investment and development assistance from developed nations. Not only must the current global situation be taken into account, the fact that 800,000 to one million youth enter the Tanzanian labor force each year is not to be underestimated. Accordingly, we must face the challenge of unemployment and all the associated risks.  

Regional integration is one way Africa can avoid experiencing the repercussions of the global recession. By linking our countries together through trade and building lasting partnerships, we will create a more self-reliant African continent. However, market integration can only occur through increased cooperation between countries and the creation of proper infrastructure. In order to reach its full potential, Africa must develop efficient connectivity in terms of roads, railways, ports, air transport and waterways. Once greater regional integration is realized, more jobs will be created and younger citizens will be able to find jobs in neighboring countries.

The development of human resources is our most precious asset toward sustaining economic growth. The events that occurred during the Arab spring serve to confirm this assertion. Continued investment in science, medicine and technology is necessary to progress further.  While there has been notable progress in education and training, we must ensure that no reversals in development occur. We must bring back hope for the youth of Tanzania and maintain the security of the African continent.