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Africa's Youth are the Future: Engage Them

youth-02“There are 74 million young people around the world with no job opportunities, without access to education or even training. This situation is daunting. According to the International Labor Organization 500 million jobs will be created in the next 15years. The challenge is huge & and now a complex one and it is going to be even in the future with more young people joining the labor force. How we can argue is this there is no magic way to trying to create these jobs but I think that the right formula to respond to this is as an opportunity. We don’t want to just look at talk about youth unemployment or youth demanding jobs, we want to look at this as an opportunity to help young people transform the economies of their countries.”

These were the words for the UN Youth envoy Ahmad Alhindawi as he spoke about youth and employment shortly after his appointment in January.

The question of youth unemployment and youth involvement in policy making continues to be one of those so passionately debated on the planet. Youth issues remain at the core of so many discussions. And in Africa, it is beginning to be a core issue as well. This is because majority of the nations in Africa are young.

The Youth and African Union Commission says that 65% of the total population of Africa is between the ages of 18 and 35. This automatically makes Africa the most youthful planet with an average age of 20. The population of Africa currently is around 600 million. According to the definition by the African Union, youth in Africa are considered to be between the age of 18 and 35. If there anyone that needs to talk about the future and well being of Africa, then the youth need to be a part of that conversation. The youth offer sustainability for the future. Anything started now that involves the youth is bound to continue, one is certain that it will live many more years to come. This is the kind of demographic that advertisers and investment companies coming into Africa are excited about. Packaging goods and services for this group of people is not hard. Unlike other developing regions, sub-Saharan Africa’s population is becoming more youthful, with youth as a proportion of the total population projected at over 75 per cent by 2015, due to the high fertility rate underlying the demographic momentum. It is expected that this increase in the number of young people will not decline before 20 years or more.

The situation with the youth looks grim at times. More than 6 million youths have given up looking for a job. Prolonged unemployment entails higher risk of future unemployment, as prospective employers have negative perception of youth who have been without employment for a long period of time. Discouraged youth gave up looking for work altogether and are in danger of feeling useless and alienated from society.

But then, there comes the big challenge; what does this mean for the future? If the average age of Africa is 20, that means in 20 to 30 years to come, there will be a lot more people at the age of 40 -50 years. What are we doing to harness this big resource? As Ahmad Alhindawi says, we need to stop looking at youth as a problem and instead look at them as an opportunity to grow our nations. You do not want a host of unemployed, food insecure 40 year olds in 20 years to come. But what is being done to avert this current situation for the future?

One of the important things that every organization, company or movement needs to do is to involve the passion and adapt a youth agenda. That way they are part of the future. I have been a part of interesting conversations where youth were being engaged for the first time ever. It is easy to think that these youth are young [that is true] but a huge mistake to ignore them. Kenya’s Emma Kio is one youth that loves agriculture. She loves to farm but has no land. So she instead started to grow her vegetables in sacks on top of her house. The notion today is though that African youth would rather be idle than be found farming. She proves that theory wrong. Solomon King is a young Ugandan that has put all his life into pursuing a dream of the use of robotics in education. He has built a number of robots which he uses to inspire young students in secondary school to promote technology in their careers. This he has done single handedly and so far the reach has been great. Such youth need to be engaged and listened to.

Africa’s future lies with the youth. Engage them, mentor them, and involve them.

 

Ruth Aine Tindyebwa
Blogger/Online Communications

Read her personal blog; IN DEPTH which is at www.ruthaine.com

Read more about the author and her view on being a futurist.

 

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