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.
The UN and AU have all embraced Youth as an entity. On national level, all of the countries have formed National Youth councils and there are numerous NGOs all over the continent that are advocating for youth rights and policy.
But then, there comes the big challenge; Youth unemployment is still on the rise. We have education systems in Africa that teach the students skills that they do not need and have no use for while ignoring the practical vocational education. The old people look at youth as vultures hovering around to take their jobs without any qualifications and experience. Not many are interested in mentoring youth. The youth on the other hand dis-regard internship and volunteerism because all they ever do is become tea girls and tea boys and yet this is what the elders want them to do to gain experience. After all is said and done: what do we have? A disgruntled youth who want to be involved and engaged , a people that are referred to by the old as problematic.
But that does not mean that youth are not in their own simple ways fighting unemployment. Today’s youth are a generation that is so charismatic and very aware of the possibilities that come with technology. Technology has allowed to bridge gaps and boarders. It has become the creator of energy within us as we strive too be a different people and make a difference. And that is something that cannot be ignored. We are born in the times where everything is possible. People have gone to the moon and come back, money is now stored on mobile phones and social media has been used to topple governments. Do we have any lessons to pick from this? Yes.
That while the older generations may not be able to easily accept us, mentor us, lead us as they ought to, that does not stop us from making a difference. We the youth of today have what it it takes to create a better world for us and our children in years to come.
Kofi Annan, the former secretary general of the United Nations during last year’s One Young World Summit, spoke to the youth in an amazing way: ‘ The problems we are faced with cross national boarders and we are all responsible for them. Don’t let your initial problems turn you off – it is a part of the process. Make a difference. You have energy and creativity to make a difference. Young people can make this world a better place. I have such faith in your ability. You must organize and structure yourselves in a way that you are a force that political leaders have to listen to and consult you. Take on responsibility, ask questions, challenge leadership. You are prepared to build the world that you want to live in. Strong institutions are stronger than strong men.”
A lot of people do believe in the youth today. But what is even more important is the faith they ought to have in themselves. To be able to take up the mantle of leadership and create change in the communities and societies where they belong. Unemployment will probably get worse as time goes on, especially in the developing world. But entrepreneurship is a strength and so is technology and our governments do acknowledge us and are giving us enabling environments. With that, the youth have a bright and better future.