The Unemployment Bubble: Exploring the Paradox of Reality

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Before I start deriving the variables behind this writing, I draw parallels between the infamous dot-com bubble of the late 1990s and the pressing issue of unemployment in Africa. The unemployment crisis in Africa is reaching critical levels, signalling the impending bursting of its bubble. With a growing number of college graduates and limited job opportunities, the continent faces a paradox of reality that demands attention and innovative solutions.

I want to link up the scenarios of this story of mine to a periodic happening in the technology space or industry commonly known as the “dotcom bubble”.

According to Investopedia, the dotcom bubble, also known as the internet bubble, was a rapid rise in U.S. technology stock equity valuations fueled by investments in internet-based companies during the bull market in the late 1990s; during this time, newly unveiled technology companies enjoyed immense support in elevating their products specifically from venture capitalists and well offs but all of a sudden something strange happened: the bubble ultimately burst spectacularly, leaving many investors facing steep losses and several internet companies going bust.

The Dotcom Bubble Parallels

Drawing inspiration from the dotcom bubble, we can understand the magnitude of the unemployment issue in Africa. Just as newly unveiled technology companies enjoyed immense support before the bubble burst, African countries have witnessed a surge in college graduates. However, the job market fails to accommodate this growing workforce, leading to a potential bursting of the unemployment bubble.

Someone may ask why did you start with that story and what is your main theme here? Here is the issue. When I look at that periodic event of the internet burble busting, I relate it to one of the most pressing issues in the continent I reside in, and that issue is: “Unemployment”. In Africa, the unemployment rate has been hitting the charts since the turn of the last decade and based on an index by the World Bank, there is an emulation that cites the Sub-Saharan having a cumulative total of 117%, progressing from less than 100% in the early ’70s and 80’s where the number of college graduates was less than 100,000 in countries like Tanzania. Still, as of today, college graduates are estimated to be 800,000, whilst cometh 2030, the number will be 1.6 million.

Oops! The bubble has been infiltrated, and what fascinates the most is that it is about to burst or if not, it has already, just like the number of internet technology companies who were entrants in the market in the early ’90s but busted the bubble cometh the late ’90s.

So what’s the realm behind this issue, and why is it a paradox of reality?

As you can depict from the picture above, the majority of these entry-level job seekers, who are 3 million in Africa at the moment, based on a publication by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, many are still determining their prospects upon graduation.

Upon various alternatives that colleges, mentors, parents, recruiting and consultancy firms give in, there remain validations that need to sort out to save the bubble that burst from severe unemployment pains and sink in gains, these are commonly stressed from time to time, but I’ll pull in a different angle of common observation and understanding, the alternatives include:

Upskilling for Relevance

One crucial aspect is upgrading personal skill sets to align with the evolving employment landscape. More than merely relying on classroom education is required. There is always room for integrating what’s relevant with the current environment the world is moving unto or your region as well; an example is derived from my encounter, I studied finance in college, but I find it hard within this disruptive digital age to pull in hard skills from class to newly unveiled concepts of fintech cutting across artificial intelligence to big data, my only resolution remains in learning of these new concepts to fit in the environment (sometimes it is not the robots that will replace your job — it is your adaptability syndrome). Adaptability and continuous learning are key to remaining relevant in a world where technological advancements reshape industries.

Empowering the Public and Private Sectors

The public and private sectors bear responsibility for bridging the unemployment gap. Through ministries and agencies, governments should revamp their approaches by integrating required skills through training programs. Collaboration with research institutions, innovation centres, and startups can foster a more conducive ecosystem for employment. The continent can produce graduates better equipped for opportunities by aligning job market demands with educational curricula.

The Urgency of Action

There are 2.5 million unfilled entry-level job positions each year, which is expected to double by 2030. Africa cannot afford to overlook this issue, as it can have severe socio-economic consequences, perpetuating the poverty line. Urgent and strategic interventions are necessary to avert the potential crisis and enable sustainable development.

Just as the burst of the dot-com bubble left investors reeling and internet companies crumbling, the potential bursting of the unemployment bubble in Africa threatened the socio-economic fabric of the continent. The classroom alone cannot provide all the necessary tools for success in the digital age. Continuous learning and embracing new concepts will enable graduates to stay relevant and seize opportunities that arise.

The clock is ticking; It is time to embrace the lessons of history, learn from the dotcom bubble, and chart a new course that redefines the employment landscape in Africa. With determination and strategic interventions, we can turn the tide, transform challenges into opportunities, and create a brighter future for all Africans.

Read other Articles by John A. Minango

John is a multifaceted professional in finance, project management and business development. He has worked with renowned corporates, Non-Governmental Organizations and startups in moving their operations and he has trained on various concepts like design thinking with the Friedrich Egbert Stiftung, financial literacy with the Global Shapers World Economic Forum Community and he is an accredited TEDx speaker.

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