On Monday, July 18, 2016, the world celebrated Nelson Mandela International Day, a day recognizing the former president of South Africa’s commitment to fostering peace and freedom. Every year the Nelson Mandela Foundation hosts a lecture, inviting prominent individuals to discuss significant social issues affecting the African continent. For this year’s lecture, Bill Gates was selected to speak on the theme of “Living Together” in front of a packed stadium in Pretoria. Gates focused on a topic Mandela returned to repeatedly throughout his life—the power of the youth. In the words of Gates, “…young people are better than old at driving innovation because they are not locked in by the limits of the past… we must clear away the obstacles standing in young people’s way so that they can seize all of their potential.”
Unfortunately, South Africa, the second-largest economy on the continent, has the highest youth unemployment rate at 54 percent, as seen in the figure below. Surprisingly, according to the figure the highest rates of youth unemployment lie in the upper-middle-income countries as classified by GNI per capita. Additionally, these unemployment rates might be depressed due to the fact that unemployment refers to people looking for jobs, and many of Africa’s youth are forced into the informal sector after giving up on their search for employment.