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Addressing Africa’s youth unemployment through skills for industries without smokestacks


This project seeks to inform strategies and policies on youth employment by examining the job creation potential of industries without smokestacks, such as agriculture, the service sector, tourism, and information and communication technology-based services.

Implemented in collaboration with the Brookings Institution, the project will fund researchers from Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, and Uganda to assess the ecosystem and employment creation potential of these industries. They will also assess the skills required, with a focus on soft skills, digital skills, and how countries can address skills mismatches.

The project is part of a cohort of IDRC-supported projects aimed at boosting decent employment for Africa’s youth. This initiative focuses on two niche areas: soft and digital skills and apprenticeship and mentorship models that work for youth. Developed as part of a collaborative effort between IDRC, the Dutch Knowledge Platform on Inclusive Development Policies (INCLUDE) and the International Labour Organization, the goal is to provide practical guidance and tools for policymakers and practitioners to help realize aspirations for large-scale positive change.

Project ID
Project Status
End Date
24 months
IDRC Officer
Martha Melesse
Total Funding
CA$ 504,900.00
South Africa
Employment and Growth
Institution Country
United States
Project Leader
Brahima Coulibaly
The Brookings Institution


Job creation for youth in Africa : assessing the potential of industries without smokestacks

Job creation for youth in Africa : assessing the potential of industries without smokestacks


There is emerging evidence that some industries, including tourism, agro-industry, horticulture, transport, and information technology-enabled services are generating opportunities for job creation and more rapid structural transformation in Africa. This paper assesses the job creation potential of these “industries without smokestacks” (IWOSS) by estimating employment-to-output elasticities. Both transport and telecom (T-T) and tourism have employment elasticities similar to manufacturing and near the ideal 0.7 identified in the literature, suggesting that growth in the sector could enhance productivity and generate employment.

Author(s): Coulibaly, Brahima S., Gandhi, Dhruv, Mbaye, Ahmadou Aly

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Language: English