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West Africa: Youth unemployment a ‘ticking bomb’

Youth unemployment a ‘ticking bomb’ for security in West Africa: UN study

Increasing levels of youth unemployment in impoverished West Africa, where almost three quarters of the population is under 30, poses a serious threat to the security and stability of the whole region, the United Nations Special Representative for the area warned today, highlighting the findings of a UN study looking at ways to diffuse this “ticking bomb.”

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the Special Representative of the Secretary General for West Africa, said prospects for peace in the war-wracked region were limited because of the frustrations and social instability caused by so many young people not having jobs, his Office (UNOWA) said in a press release issued from Senegal.

“The future of the entire region is threatened by the growing numbers of youth who lack prospects of ever being able to work for a reasonable living. Until this situation changes, the likelihood of having genuine peace, security and development in West Africa will remain small,” Mr. Ould-Abdallah said.

The Special Representative briefed a panel in New York earlier this week on ways to improve the situation, which was described as a “ticking bomb” for West Africa. The report outlined several priorities, including the need to combat corruption, ways to involve the private sector more and how to improve schemes for apprenticeship and vocational training of young people.

“Unemployment feeds violence, and violence feeds unemployment,” Mr. Ould-Abdallah, told reporters on Thursday, again emphasizing the linkage between unemployed youths and violence, and calling on national Governments in the region to review their job-creation practices.

Recommendations from UNOWA’s “Youth Unemployment and Regional Insecurity in West Africa” study were directed at governments of the sub-region, donor countries, international organizations and the private sector. This week’s panel meeting in New York was preparation for the upcoming high-level UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) gathering that will focus on “productive employment and decent work for all.”

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