Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in China at the end of 2019, the virus has been spreading like wild fire across the world. No continent has been able to escape its impact. It was declared a global emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO), given its impact on the entire world population and the economy. The pandemic has changed the world and the lives of vulnerable people in unprecedented ways.
African Monitor (AM) has been involved in the preliminary assessment of the Socio-Economic impact of COVID-19 on African youth, working together with youth team leaders from five countries – Botswana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Uganda. The work involves identifying and documenting the youth priorities in the network’s response to COVID-19, and the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on youth in Africa.
The United Nations (UN) has warned that this is not just a health crisis but a social and economic crisis for billions of people in the months and years to come. The economic impact comes in the form of loss of income and employment due to lockdown in most parts of the world. Most of the countries in Africa have implemented lockdown in a bid to minimize the spread of the virus. However, the lockdown has had a serious impact on youth employment; as most have lost their jobs and source of income. Others cannot carry out day to day economic activities to secure livelihoods.
According to the youth leaders that AM has been in conversation with, many of the young people in their communities have not been receiving salaries from their employers during lockdown, as employers have also lost income and profit during this period. This has led to young people not being able to afford basic living expenses. Some governments have put measures in place to assist the poor and vulnerable communities, including those who have lost employment and income. Some of the assistance have come in a form of food parcels distributed to communities. In other countries, like South Africa, the Unemployment Grant for the youth has been implemented. However, despite all the responsive measure put in place, it seems like some local authorities are still poorly resourced or have limited ability to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
AM’s youth leader in Botswana, Ms. Thabang Moiphisi said that though food parcels are being distributed to community members, many are still being left behind.
“Many have complained that the food parcels never reached them, and only a selected few are given,” she said.
She further said that those who are involved in farming were given permits to continue trading, however, their trading is only limited to supermarkets, as a result, the profit is not enough.
Similarly, in Uganda, those who are involved in farming are not able sell their produce. This has led to farmers forced to sell at very low prices, thus making very little profit.
Most of the informal traders who used to sell their produce on the streets, have not been able to continue trading as normal due to COVID-19 lockdown,” said Mr. Francis Maberi – our youth leader in Uganda.
He said that most of the young people have become street vendors due to the high rate of unemployment in their country. Now that lockdown has been enforced, they have and are losing income as vendors are not allowed on the streets during lockdown. The youth, women and children are suffering the most from this crisis. This is the case in Sierra Leone as well. Farmers are highly affected by the COVID-19 lockdown, with little assistance from the local government.
In Nigeria, the Federal Government (FG) Palliatives (sponsored funds to mitigate the effects of the lockdown) has been introduced, however, not everyone has been able to access this. Because it is limited to a certain age. This led to other vulnerable citizens to be left behind.
Youth unemployment as a result of COVID-19 is on the rise. The UNDP said that nearly half of all jobs in Africa could be lost by the end of this pandemic. Under the current circumstances, it is especially important that youth are heard alongside other community voices in the rollout of interventions in response to COVID-19 crisis. Proactive measures need to be put in place for economic recovery, financial support measures that include a focus on the youth, the poor and those who have experienced the greatest financial losses as a result of the pandemic need to be offered without leaving anyone behind.
As a follow up to this preliminary consultations, AM will be embarking on a series of virtual youth discussion on how youth are being affected by this pandemic but also provide or suggest solutions.