ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, Jun 22 – Swiss company Nestle will offer on-the-job training for 300,000 African youths to offset high unemployment that poses “severe economic and social challenges” for the continent, the company announced Tuesday.
“We’re going to create more than 3,000 internships and apprenticeships in African countries by the end of 2018,” said chief executive officer Paul Bulcke during an economic conference in Ivory Coast’s capital.
“During the same period, we will offer qualified work experience to more than 300,000 youths.”
About 1.2 billion people live in Africa, of which 70 percent are aged 30 or less.
Bulcke was speaking at a Nestle global forum in the Ivorian city of Abidjan on “creating shared values”, the first conference of its kind in Africa organised by Nestle.
Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan and Ivory Coast prime minister Daniel Kablan Duncan were also in attendance.
The training will include advice on career schemes and interview techniques as well as CV help.
Nestle said it will advertise the training on its websites, at jobs fair and in schools and universities.
While economic growth in Africa “has stayed strong for a decade (around 5 percent), it has not led to a development of productive capacities or structural transformation of the economy, two crucial elements to create productive jobs and lay the groundwork for poverty reduction,” Duncan said during his opening address.
The private sector will be instrumental in laying the foundation for powerful economic growth for African communities, especially by sharing responsibility with government, Duncan said.
Nestle, the world’s largest food company and a major consumer of Ivory Coast cocoa, has previously faced criticism from pressure groups for profiting from child labour.
Ivory Coast, the world’s largest cocoa producer, has struggled to prevent children working in the cocoa sector, long an accepted practice in the countryside.
The industry, which accounts for 15 percent of GDP and more than 50 percent of export receipts as well as two thirds of jobs, is absolutely vital to the country’s economic welfare, according to the World Bank.
In 2011, the Ivorian government launched a scheme to get children off the plantations and into school as much to improve the country’s image overseas as about protecting its young people.