JOHANNESBURG - Despite Africa’s impressive growth in past 25 years and its entry into the digital economy, its job market continues to be depressed with youth unemployment rising, the Africa lead for the United Nations Development Programme's Open Innovation programme said on Tuesday.

Africa has the largest population of young people in the world, with some 200 millionon the continent aged between 15 and 24. These youth account for 60 percent of the Africa’s jobless people, UNDP Open Innovation Africa Lead Sandiso Sibisi noted.

"Africa needs a way out of poverty and entrepreneurship may be key. It has the potential to create millions of jobs in Africa and youth entrepreneurs may bring about the positive change we urgently need," Sibisi said.

"And although more and more youth are looking into entrepreneurship, there are many challenges facing this sector like the lack of access to information, finance, networking and mentoring."

She said while networking was standard practice for business professionals wanting to establish contacts and relationships, it was challenging because a growing number of business networks only wanted to support mature entrepreneurs rather than youth.

Because the challenges facing youth entrepreneurs in Africa are broad and varied, the UNDP has established a virtual platform for entrepreneurs, engaging global professional services company Accenture to facilitate the implementation of the pan-African Youth for Africa and Sustainable Development Goals (YAS) portal.

YAS aims to help young entrepreneurs move away from being jobseekers to becoming job creators, especially as the United Nationsl estimates that by 2050, the world population will have grown by 2.2 billion people and half of them will be African.

"The youth are Africa’s greatest asset and we have an abundance of them," Sibisi said.

"Youth employment has the capacity to drive economic development and it is therefore critical that all sectors work together to improve access to finance and skills so that these youth have the tools they need to build and develop a sustainable Africa."

- African News Agency (ANA)