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INSIDE AFRICA: Plague of the unfair job market

According to the African Economic Outlook, Africa has the youngest population with about 200 million people aged between 15 and 24 years. In my own words, the continent has the most frustrated population of employable young talents, too. Here is why.

Good Jobs in Bad Hands 
We have watched the true essence of education slip far away. Our classrooms are now nothing but extortionate shrines where priceless talents are subtly sacrificed on the altar of examinations to please a portable god made out of paper called ‘certificate’.

The erroneous impression that education is all about passing examinations at all costs has swallowed up an entire continent so much so that whilst a misled multitude of students either cram or cheat to progress half-baked on the academic ladder, a staggering number of individuals have continued to hide behind rented identities, forged qualifications, stolen résumés and titles or degrees bought with anything to earn a living and even so in opulence.

So you only find the continent sinking deeper in the shackles of hopeless underdevelopment and sighing louder in grief because many good jobs are in many bad hands!

Bad Jobs in Good Hands 
On the other hand, bad jobs are being handled by good hands on the continent because some individuals and organisations unconsciously have continued to turn away talents who really can do the job simply because they do not have degrees from the elite schools or lack experience with name-brand companies.

Some do so deliberately, mostly in state-owned organs where many hardly show true patriotism, because the job seeker is not aligned to their political ideologies, religious convictions or ethnic backgrounds. A lot of innocent young talents, as a result, are wandering through our job market, frustrated and wasted. Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka calls them “wasted geniuses”.

Time to Rethink with Blind Hiring 
I am not enthused by the ongoing raid of schools in Ghana by the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) to weed out teachers with fake certificates. There are similar raids in Kenya and Nigeria. The raid is necessary but it is not the solution to the problems with our job market.

In the first place, an individual needs an education but they do not need a certificate or personal connections before they are the right people for the job let alone to fake a certificate. Because it is difficult to determine those who have genuinely earned their qualifications, it is also wrong to use a certificate to determine who is truly qualified. Some may not hold a degree but they will get the job done better than those who with questionable qualifications and without a passion for quality job.

It is time for Africa to effectively deal with the counterfeits and the biases at its job market. They are sinking the continent’s economy. It is time to restructure its recruitment system by swinging into blind hiring or anonymous audition, a recruitment practice now familiar in parts of Europe and America.

It is the practice where names and résumés of job applicants are not the prerequisites but rather the participation of the job candidates in a competition organised by an independent hiring panel to determine who is qualified for the job at stake.

Just recently in America, the Leverson Group, an advertising firm based in Dallas, employed a blind audition process to hire a copywriter for a company called Gap Jumpers Incorporated. Fifty applicants took part in a challenge to design a brand. The eventual winner was one Kendall Madden, a recent college graduate who had neither studied marketing nor interned at any major advertising agency.

“Had the company just looked at her résumé, I’m not even certain we would have interviewed her in the first place,” said Paul McEnany, the chief product officer at Levenson Group.

And What our Leaders must Hear 
There is a need for a quick and realistic look at the plague of Africa’s unfair job market. Decades ago, Chinua Achebe, author of Things Fall Apart, wept over Africa, describing it as a continent endowed with natural resources but bereft of good leaders.

And nothing seems to have changed since then. We still celebrate among our arms of governments more execu-thieves than the genuine executives, more legis-looters than the committed legislators and more bar-tricksters than the honest barristers.

The continent’s estimated 200 million people aged between 15 and 24 years will double by 2045, says African Economic Outlook. And its labour force, based on an analysis by the World Bank, will be one billion strong by 2040. For the McKinsey Global Institute, that envisaged figure will be the largest in the world, surpassing China and India. 
For me, what this means is that the number of unemployed youth will also double as long as the big mess at the continent’s job market persists. The frustrations will double, too.

One of the underlying causes of the political instability we saw on a brutal scale in a number of North African countries in 2011, as highlighted by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), is the youth unemployment turmoil that pervades the entire continent. The continent has enough troubles―from the resilient drought in the east to barefaced corruption in the west, from a wailing democracy in the north to neglect protests in the south. It does not wish to bleed any further.

But sadly, to say we are prepared for what is coming is a far cry from the reality. All I hear from our leaders is a campaign pledge to provide jobs. And after a successful campaign, they only urge the voters to also create their own jobs. Nobody really talks about undoing the plague we have inflicted on ourselves― the wrong emphasis we place on paper before good hands are handed good jobs!

By Edward Adeti | Email: Twitter: @edwardadeti1

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