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Bugs biting Africa’s young job market


"The job market here has adequate openings for various employment vacancies other than the 'desk top' white collar jobs that almost all young people crave for," said Dr Aggrey Mlimuka the Executive Director of the Association of Tanzania Employers (ATE).

Dr Mlimuka was commenting on the raising concern over the high unemployment rate in Tanzania and other African countries as youth out of school and college graduates tend to select only flashy, white collar jobs shunning any other form of employment which requires manual labour.

But at the same time aren't employers rather too choosy over whom they want to employ? Job applications demand 'x' years of experience. Applicants short listed for interviews go for interviews in ill fitting borrowed suits even if the job applied for is manual in nature. 

"Although some fields demand a smart dress codes other employers can be flexible and adopt with change," the ATE Executive Director pointed out. Nearly 80 per cent of Tanzania's population of 43 million resides in rural areas, but employers and investors seem to pick their potential workers from the urban centres.

Jobs advertised through media outlets that can only be accessed by job seekers in big towns and cities as the deadlines mentioned in the adverts leave little time for aspirants living far to travel to towns for interviews.  Plus it is rather expensive for a person from the village to stay in town for three days, waiting to be screened for a job that he or she may not get in the first place.

"That is why we encourage investors to set up factories and other enterprises in rural areas and we at the Association want to lobby the government to give incentives for companies that are ready to venture out into remote areas," explained Dr Mlimuka.
All that came to light last week, when The Association of Tanzania Employers (ATE) played host to East, Central and Southern Africa Employers Organisations for a conference in Arusha last week that brought together representatives from nearly 20 countries from around the continent.

The conference addressed the issue of Africa being regarded as the least favourable destination for investment by the World Bank's latest rankings.  According to the ATE Chairperson, Advocate Cornelius Kariwa, the high costs of starting and doing business, cumbersome and lengthy formalities, innumerable paper works processes and lack of skilled, motivated workers were the main stumbling blocks for investment in the region.

Employers' Associations in Africa need to persuade their governments to reduce, if not totally do away with "hostilities" that both local and foreign investors are usually confronted with in the hands of bureaucrats whenever they plan to establish investments.

On skilled labour, the Minister for Trade and Industries, Dr Cyrill Chami advised firms, companies and other investors to train their work force "in-house" because it is the only way they can be assured of employees with specialised skills. The Executive Director of the Federation of Kenya Employers, Ms Jacqueline Mugo pointed out that governments should not escape the responsibility of training manpower because firms are subjected to pay such training levies.

"And at six  per cent, Tanzania is charging premium through such taxation, therefore placing an added burden of re-training graduates to the employers only serves to make investing in the region as expensive as the World Bank report claims," she maintained.  Even more expensive is the cost of maintaining workers with the onslaught of HIV and Aids pandemic which is reducing of Africa's abled workforce population at an alarming rate.

The Minister for Labour and Employment, Ms Gaudentia Kabaka graced the conference to address the issue of HIV and Aids and the pandemic effects on  employees around the region.
"Fighting HIV and Aids in the workplace should be part of the employer's organization agenda.  In numerous countries HIV and Aids is a fundamental social and labour issue as it is a threat to companies and national economies," she said.  South Africa may be the continent's biggest economic wheeler at the moment, however, according to Mr Frederick Muia, the Senior International Organisations of  Employers (IOE) Adviser for Africa, the country suffers the most when it comes to the HIV and Aids assault both at workplace and in society in general.

Ms Rose Anang, a senior specialist for employers' activities with the International Labour Organisation in Pretoria, South Africa, said the social and economic impact of HIV and Aids is intensified by the fact that HIV and Aids kills primarily qualified and productive adults at their peak performance. In addition; "The global economic crisis has caused major development partners who channelled lots of funding for HIV and Aids through the Global Fund's initiatives to reduce support due to budgetary constraints," said Mr Muia.

THE first day I came into close proximity ...

Author: MARC NKWAME in Arusha

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