This paper revisits the role of investment in human capital in closing the productivity gap, boosting labor productivity growth, speeding the rate of structural transformation, and ultimately creating high-quality jobs in Africa. Analysis of detailed sector-level historical data on employment, value added, and human capital shows that investment in human capital is significantly and positively associated with the rate at which countries close the labor productivity gap between agriculture and the rest of the economy. Investment in human capital also significantly increases labor productivity within sectors and the speed at which labor is reallocated from low-productivity to high-productivity employment. In line with other research on this topic, the findings from this study underscore that Africa is ready to benefit significantly from improving human capital through investments in education, health care, and nutrition.
Africa has no shortage of labor supply. But it lacks high-productivity job opportunities in high- productivity nonagricultural sectors. Its relatively rapid and sustained economic growth over the past decade did not yield enough jobs for the growing wave of jobs seekers-mainly youth in urban areas. Nonagricultural employment continues to be dominated by the informal sector, where wages are low, benefits nonexistent, workplace safety absent, and labor exploitation common. With significant demographic change expected to bring pressure on African labor markets, the urgency of creating high-quality and remunerative jobs at a much faster pace is not only an economic issue but a political and social one. This report investigates the extent to which failure to remove business constraints hinders actual and potential job growth. In particular, using World Bank Enterprise Survey (ES) panel data, the report quantifies the number of actual jobs lost due to the impact of business obstacles on firm survival and employment growth.
Africa enjoyed relatively fast economic growth over the past decade and a half. The sustained growth undoubtedly kindled hopes for a prosperous Africa. However, poverty and inequality remained pervasive. In 2013, poverty was still widespread, and the rate was high in Sub-Saharan Africa-41 percent, compared with the world average of just 10.7 percent and the South Asia average of 15 percent. While the intensity of poverty, measured by the poverty gap, declined from 26 percent to 16 percent during the same period, it is still high compared with the world average of 3.2 percent. Moreover, the benefits of growth were not shared widely, and inequality was widespread and persistent. The median Gini coefficient measuring inequality in Africa was 0.36 in 2014, and 7 percent of total income goes to the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution.