Despite boasting immense resources and a dynamic young population, unemployment remains a significant hurdle across Africa. The continent holds the highest global average youth unemployment rate of 12.2%, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO). Big economies like South Africa face a 32.1% unemployment rate and hold the title of having the highest unemployment rate on the continent. Recently, Nigeria the most populous and largest economy in Africa experienced a slight increase in its unemployment rate, from 4% to 5%, despite revising its unemployment methodology in Q4 2023.

However, within this broad picture, several African countries are making strides in curbing unemployment by implementing policies and fostering economic environments that have yielded positive results, improving the overall economic state. It is the ripple effect of having a low unemployment rate. When more people have stable incomes, they are more likely to spend on goods and services. According to the World Bank, a 1% increase in employment can lead to a 0.5% boost in household consumption. This increased spending creates a ripple effect, leading to higher demand for goods and services from businesses. To meet this demand, businesses often expand their operations, hire more employees, and invest in growth. Notably, some African countries have consistently maintained impressively low unemployment rates despite facing other economic challenges. Here is a list of the African countries that have achieved meagre unemployment rates in the last few years despite other economic challenges.

As of 2024, Statista reports that Niger has the lowest unemployment rate in Africa, at 0.49%. The West African country has benefited from its strategic position as a transit country for trade and migration, as well as its natural resources, such as uranium, oil, and gold. Uranium industrial mines employ about 4,000 people, while Artisanal and Small-scale gold mining involves more than 500,000. Niger also prioritizes agriculture in its economy, by investing in irrigation, rural infrastructure, and farmer training. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, investing in irrigation has increased land under cultivation by over 10% in the last decade. The World Bank reports that agriculture employs over 80% of Niger’s workforce. However, most of Niger’s working population are informal workers. The formal labour market is rudimentary. The unemployment rate in urban areas was 5.9% in Q2 2023, an increase from 5.4% in Q1 2023. Time-related underemployment in Q2 2023 was 11.8%. 8% of the working-age population were in subsistence agriculture. The informal employment rate in Q2 2023 was 92.7%. The percentage of youth Not in Employment, Education, or Training (NEET Rate) was 13.8%. The government’s “Programme National de Promotion de l’Emploi et de la Formation Professionnelle” (National Program for the Promotion of Employment and Vocational Training) aims to formalize 200,000 informal businesses by 2025.

In the last few years, Burundi has maintained an unemployment rate below 2%. In 2015, the country implemented structural reforms under an ongoing IMF program, including strengthening public financial management, enhancing revenue mobilization, and improving public investment efficiency. The World Bank estimates that public sector investment in Burundi contributed to over 5% of GDP growth in 2022. Burundi’s heavy investment in public infrastructure projects, created temporary employment opportunities, stimulating economic activity in related sectors like construction and material supply. Government-led programs like “Emplois Jeunes” (“Youth Employment”) provide unemployed graduates with temporary placements in public and some private sectors. Since 2015, the program has provided temporary placements to over 10,000 graduates, with over 60% transitioning to permanent jobs in the public or private sector. However, Burundi’s agriculture and rural development, account for the majority of its labor force and GDP. As of 2024, Burundi has the second lowest unemployment rate in Africa, at 0.98%.

The oil industry in Chad is one of the main sources of revenue and exports for the country with 1.5 billion barrels of proven oil reserves and produces over 140,000 barrels of oil per day. The country utilizes this source for various economic growth. While susceptible to fluctuations in oil prices, Chad utilizes revenue from its oil industry to invest in social programs and infrastructure development. In 2022, Chad allocated over 20% of its oil revenue to this end. This created jobs in construction and related sectors, contributing to lower unemployment. Similar to Niger, Chad also invests in agricultural development. This not only reduces reliance on oil imports but also generates income opportunities in rural areas, where a significant portion of the population resides, promoting self-employment and food security. Chad has also developed sectors such as mining, and services like trade, transport, and telecommunications. As of 2024, Chad has the third lowest unemployment rate in Africa, at 1.28% down from 1.65% in 2020,  with the total labour force forecasted to be 5.98m in 2024.

Republic of Benin

In 2016, President Patrice Talon launched the Government Action Program to invest 9.1 billion US dollars in infrastructure, agriculture, energy, digital, and social sectors between 2016 and 2021. Talon’s reforms had mixed results, as the economy grew by an average of 6.4% per year between 2016 and 2021, and the unemployment rate increased from 1.5% in 2016 to 2.4% in 2021. Then the country underwent public service reforms, streamlining processes and improving efficiency. This has not only improved service delivery but also facilitated the creation of new positions in the public sector, providing additional employment opportunities. One of such structural reforms is under an ongoing IMF program, which provides $638 million in funding. The reforms aim to expand the tax base, improve public financial management, enhance the business environment, and increase public investment in infrastructure, especially in transportation and energy. Benin has also leveraged its geographical position as a regional hub for trade and tourism. A 2022 report by the African Development Bank found that Benin’s public service reforms led to a 15% increase in efficiency and over 10,000 new public sector jobs created. Benin currently has an unemployment rate of 1.58% making it the fourth lowest on the continent.

Madagascar is known for its breathtaking landscapes and unique wildlife. This has fueled a thriving tourism industry, making it the country’s second-largest source of foreign exchange and contributing 15% to the GDP. Recognizing the potential of its tourism industry, Madagascar invests in infrastructure, marketing, and skills development for tourism professionals. This has created over 12,000 jobs, jobs in various sectors like hospitality, transportation, and local crafts, boosting local economies and contributing to lower unemployment. Currently, Madagascar has the fifth lowest unemployment rate in Africa, at 2.07%, a remarkable improvement from 2015, when the unemployment rate was 3.48%. Previously, the country had struggled with sluggish growth and persistent poverty, largely due to weak governance, inadequate human and physical capital development, and slow structural transformation. However, the country has made progress in implementing reforms to improve the macroeconomic framework, strengthen public institutions, promote private sector development, and enhance social protection. These reforms, according to the World Bank, have facilitated a more robust average annual GDP growth of 5% in recent years.

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