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Togo: Betting on entrepreneurship

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Togo: Betting on entrepreneurship

Despite Togo’s economic growth, the line of young jobseekers is a permanent feature in downtown Lomé. Blamé Ekoué reports.

A long queue has formed outside l’Agence Nationale pour l’Emploi (ANPE) in Lomé, Togo’s capital. Near the back of the line, optimistically waiting his turn, stands Lawson Adjé, who graduated with a degree in sociology from the University of Lomé in 2006.

Adjé, who is 30 years old, is one of 10,000 university graduates who will look for employment in Togo this year.

The unemployment rate for Togolese graduates aged 24-35 sits at a near 30% rate according to a 2011 survey.

The problem persists despite recent economic gains. Togo’s GDP has maintained steady growth in the last few years, according to a 2014 report from the World Bank: from a healthy 4.1% in 2011, it rose to 5.2% in 2013. Large road and infrastructure works have been carried out in Lomé, and several international companies, including pan-African ASKY airlines, have set up shop in the country.

This problem has been common in African countries during periods of economic recovery, explains Professor Amoussou Esse in his book entitled Poverty, Unemployment and the Emigration of Young Africans: What Options?

In his book the author shows how many African governments, including Togo, failed to create effective policies to connect supply and demand in the labour market.

“The mismatches … are caused by the education system itself,” explains Poutouli Essosieina Réné, head of the job creation support unit at ANPE. “Private colleges offer training that does not meet demand in Togo’s labour market.”

It is reported that 87% of job opportunities in the country are in the informal sector. Togolese graduates are either working in low-skilled jobs or else waiting for employment in more highly-skilled, higher-paid jobs in the formal sector.

But a new government programme hopes to offer another option. The Programme Emploi des Jeunes (PEJ), which was launched in February 2013, aims at reducing youth unemployment in a novel way – by developing entrepreneurial skills among new graduates.

The programme will enable graduates to acquire entrepreneurial skills through management studies training as well as work placements in private and public companies.

“The only way out is to give [young graduates] the technical and financial support to create their own enterprises. We did not consider this issue in our previous programmes,” says Victoire Tomegah Dogbe, Togo’s affable minister for rural development and youth employment.

Since 2006, the Togolese government has made several attempts to tackle the problem of youth unemployment. In 2008, it adopted a new National Employment Scheme that included a number of job-creation initiatives.

These job-creation initiatives are: Programme d’Appui au Développement à la Base (PRADEB); Agence Nationale pour la Promotion et de Garantie de Financement (ANPGF); Appui à l’Insertion et au Développement de l’Embauche (AIDE); and Projet d’Appui à l’Insertion Professionnelle des Jeunes Artisans (PAIPJA).

In May 2010 it established a ministerial portfolio partially dedicated to addressing youth employment in the ministry for rural development, youth employment and handicrafts.

September 2011 also saw the government launch a national volunteer service called PROVONAT (Programme de Promotion de Volontariat National) to give graduates on-the-job training.

These initiatives, which were funded by international donors to the tune of about $26m, have had some success. The government claims to have generated 127,243 jobs in the last five years, while PROVONAT has helped more than 4,280 young Togolese graduates gain professional experience.

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