Africa’s Employment Challenges: The Ever-Widening Gaps

The employment situation in sub-Saharan Africa is deteriorating, exacerbated by various developments, such as the climate crisis. In his new study, Professor Robert Kappel analyses and criticises traditional employment policy measures.

By 2050, the African continent will be home to a quarter of the world's workforce. Every year, around 20 million young people enter the African labour market. Yet, there is no guarantee that they will find work, let alone in decent jobs. Trends such as urbanisation, the climate crisis, digitalisation and population growth, but also the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, aggravate the employment crisis and increase the existing inequality.

Employment prospects on the decline

In a recent study published by the Africa Department of the FES, Professor Robert Kappel outlines current developments and trends with regard to employment in sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, he questions the established effect mechanism, and subjects traditional development and economic policy solutions to a critical reality check.

In the study, Professor Emeritus of Universität Hamburg and former President of the GIGA Institute, argues that economic growth alone does not guarantee job creation. On the contrary, employment prospects for many people on the continent have been deteriorating for years. Only a small share of the working population are wage earners; most are informally employed. Investments by foreign companies – whether from Europe or countries such as China – also fall far short of expectations in terms of their employment effects.

A rethink is necessary

In his study, Robert Kappel, therefore, calls for a rethink and more unconventional measures to be implemented – by African governments and their international partners, with greater participation of civil society and trade unions, as well as better integration of small and medium-sized enterprises.

You can read his analysis of current developments, his conclusions and reform proposals below, either in the German short version or the English or French long version.

Kappel, Robert

Afrique: les défis de l'emploi

Un fossé grandissant
Bonn, 2022

Download publication (2 MB, PDF-File)

Kappel, Robert

Africa's employment challenges

The ever-widening gaps
Bonn, 2021

Download publication (1,8 MB PDF-File)

Kappel, Robert

Die afrikanische Beschäftigungskrise

Entwicklungen und Strategien
Bonn, 2021

Download publication (250 KB, PDF-File)


Lennart Oestergaard
Lennart Oestergaard
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Africa Department

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Dr Henrik Maihack


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