JOHANNESBURG - Africa’s “easy decade” of accelerated economic growth is coming to an end and only the accelerated creation of jobs will ensure sustainable growth and development across the continent, one of the world’s most influential development economists has said.

Dr Paul Collier, a professor of economics and public policy in the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford, told a conference hosted by the African Development Bank in Rwanda on Monday that the continent must focus on youth as a driver of future growth.

"The last decade of African growth was not sustainable. Now Africa must focus on its big resource - its young people," Collier said.

"No other continent has anything like such a huge influx of young labour. Productive jobs are the priority. Young people can’t create priority jobs by themselves. Those jobs have to be created, so the prime task of policymakers in Africa over the next decade is to create productive jobs for young people at a rate that has never happened before.”

He said connectivity between African countries would unlock the potential of many countries, saying smaller ones were doomed to poverty unless they had open markets and free societies.

"The typical African country is small, with closed markets. That is a disastrous combination. So the African Continental Free Trade Area is a very important step forward,” said Collier.

The African Development Bank has pledged full support to the free trade area and has invested more than $20 million over the past five years to support the institutional and human capacities of its secretariat.

The free trade area is expected to boost intra-African trade by up to $35 billion per year, creating a 52 percent increase in trade by 2022; and a $10 billion decrease in imports to the continent.

The African Development Bank is also accelerating the impact of its 2016-25 Jobs for Youth in Africa strategy which is designed to support countries in overcoming youth unemployment. 

It aims to create 25 million jobs for youth over the next decade and to equip 50 million young people with employability and entrepreneurial skills.

- African News Agency (ANA)