Mauritania: Creating new opportunities for young job seekers

11 June 2020


Senderistas /
A fisherman cleaning fish on the beach in Mauritania

Africa is the world’s youngest and fastest-growing continent. Every year, between 10 and 12 million young people enter the workforce; however, far fewer jobs are created and skill mismatches means job-ready youth do not always have the expertise required for the modern workforce.

Mauritania is a microcosm of this wider challenge. More than 60% of the population is under 25 years old, yet they are twice as likely to be unemployed than adults (42% compared to 21%), according to 2017 figures from the National Bureau of Statistics. At the same time, the country’s youthful population is one of its major assets – so long as certain conditions, including education, jobs, and social services are provided. 

“When education, training, and employment align, youth can tap into their potential to drive economic growth and prosperity,” says Ibrahima Diallo an expert in integration and employment at IIEP-UNESCO Dakar.

To help accelerate this, Diallo has been working with the Mauritanian government to create a public-private partnership geared towards expanding youth employment and social inclusion. 

Opening doors to employment  

As part of this public-private partnership, companies in three top economic sectors – mixed farming, construction and public works, and fishing – have identified a list of ‘priority jobs’ for three regions in the country. The idea is that if companies themselves say what jobs they need most, training centres can adapt and youth can pursue more promising career paths. 

“The objective was for public and private partners to identify the priority trades in the three sectors, which are among the priority sectors in Mauritania’s development policy,” says Abidine Levrack, the focal point for the Platform of Expertise in Vocational Training (PEFOP) at the Ministry of Secondary Education and Technical and Vocational Training.

For example, construction companies identified the need for a multi-skilled construction worker. Currently, companies are obliged to hire three different apprentices to cover structural construction contracts. “This new profile could be beneficial, especially for small companies, which dominate the sector in Mauritania,” says Diallo. As a result, all of the training centres in Nouakchott that provide training in this area will adapt and offer a new course targeted specifically at this gap in the employment market. Other jobs identified so far include machine operators, artisanal fishers, gear operators, and outboard motor mechanics, among others. 

Saleck Abderaouf, President of the Federation of Service Professionals in Mauritania and President of the regional partnership framework for construction, was part of the analysis for his sector in the Nouakchott region. According to him: “The development of a regional partnership – with the effective participation of private sector enterprises – can help us to have qualified human resources by improving the quality of vocational and technical training.”

Are training centres ready?

The next step of the partnership will be to analyze the capacity of training centres – for example, do they have enough trainers in the specialized areas and the right equipment? The partnership will also conduct a similar analysis for participating companies to identify how they can also contribute to the training offers.

“Using the methodology behind the partnership, we will be better able to identify key professions,” says Mr Levrack. “It will be useful to draw up pedagogical and material operational guides for the implementation of the training courses responding to the targeted priority trades.”

Harnessing the potential of Mauritania’s youth

Quality education is the path towards brighter lives – but this must also include a strong focus on vocational training as a way to improve youth employability and reduce poverty. The public-private partnership in Mauritania is at the crux of this: technical and vocational training (TVET) can help youth acquire a variety of skills for employment. This has also become a continent-wide priority. However, despite this recognition only 6.5% of secondary school pupils in sub-Saharan Africa are registered in a TVET course compared to 15% in North America and Western Europe. In Mauritania, TVET figures are even lower: only 4% of secondary school students are registered

Developing this sector will be key to providing new opportunities for Mauritania’s youth – a demographic that is set to grow in the foreseeable future. By listening to the needs of companies first, the development of relevant training opportunities – and job offers – can follow suit.