Africa has witnessed challenges in recent years ranging from violence, terrorism and myriad of issues. The continent has been described variously by people who are grossly disenchanted with happenings in the country as a slowcoach personified, a giant snail on a time-bound race, a cocoon of absurdities defined by poverty, violence, kidnapping, corruption and killings while some used kind words to describe her as the most populous black continent on earth flowing with milk and honey yet in the hollow of poverty, corruption and mismanagement; a continent that has numerous capacities to develop itself and its people but has blatantly refused to do so.
The road to a better and progressive Africa has been unsettled to the actions and inactions of both, the leadership and followership who consciously or unconsciously fail in realizing that human societies are bound together by common destinies and interests only if they are able to retain their dignity and sovereignty at an aggregated level of justice and fair play to both sides of religious beliefs, the absence of which could be seen in terms of great cost expressed in human and material losses.
While Africa continues to search for solutions to its many challenges, it somewhat becomes very elusive although with a few success stories of resilience. Regardless of undergoing a lengthy period of fluctuating economic growth and divergence, convoyed by relative social transformation, Africa has remained limited in terms of its ability to realise its full potential as the global economic growth driver it could potentially be. More than ever, we cannot ignore a growing reality that Africa needs a paradigm shift in its development plans if it is to catch up with the rest of world.
Our delinquent is not the African mind but the African mindset; it is not the politicians but the African systems; it is not a lack of resources but a deficit of resourcefulness; the heart of the African problem is the African heart which must be changed. Africa cannot endure outsourcing its thoughtful process to others, while it remains content to fantasy about the past, complain about its present, and worry about its future or perhaps succeed in producing people with a lot of nothing or people with next to nil, or churn out graduates that the world no longer needs. So Africa will have to think differently not only to develop, but also in running to catch up with the rest of the world.
There is no quick fix to development anywhere in the world but that development is a product of concerted efforts and ingenuity. The question is how does Africa accelerate the momentum of its growth and achieve the structural transformation of its economies? Maybe we can borrow a very different logic—a social or institutional logic—which lies behind the practices of many widely admired, high-performing, and enduring nations of the world. In those nations, the workings of society and people are not afterthoughts or inputs to be used and discarded but are core to their purpose.
Africa must Harness the Strength of its Young
Today, 60% of the continent population is already under 25 years of age. By 2050, Africa will be home to 452 million people under the age of 25. Their enterprise, drive and budding offer African countries with an astonishing plus. But this demographic dividend is at risk of being or already squandered as too many young Africans feel bereft of pecuniary prospects and robbed of any say on the future of their own continent.
The commodity cycle may have fuelled GDP growth for many African countries but it has created almost no jobs. Over the last ten years, while Africa’s real GDP has grown at an annual average of 4.5%, youth unemployment levels have remained high leaving more than half of its youth population unemployed. Another growing paradox is that young people have spent more years in school but few have been effectively equipped with the skills the economy needs. Despite having some of the most educated populations, with gross enrolment ratios in tertiary education over 30%, Egypt and Tunisia also have some of the highest youth unemployment rates on the continent, greater than 30%.
It must be understood henceforth that the dynamism and ambition of Africa’s young people is Africa’s greatest reserve and best hope for consolidating the continent’s progress. But their expectations could turn into defeat and anger unless they find a job and get a chance to influence their own future. Africa stands at a tipping point, and young people no longer canvass for employment, they need the conducive platform to create jobs. More than ever, sage leadership and sound governance are crucial.
If the largest voting population are young people, then it is time for Africa’s young to get involved in politics. It’s not just about political parties and government; it’s about young taking charge and revolutionising efforts to build capacities and institutions so that young people can influence daily policy decisions at all levels. There’s no doubt that – given the right tools – young people have the skill and ingenuity to solve the continent’s biggest challenges.
Finding opportunities for young people remains a critical challenge for Africa, where 62 percent of the population—more than 600 million young people—is below the age of 25. With no signs that population growth will slow in the decades to come, it is imperative that Africa leverage the talent and energy of its youth to create dramatically higher levels of prosperity and equality and avoid the latent risks of unemployment and social instability.
Today, Africa finds itself in a precarious position on this most important issue. Youth unemployment is three times the continent’s overall average. The World Bank found that young people under 25 represent three-fifths of sub-Saharan Africa’s unemployed population, and 72 percent of the youth population lives on less than $2 a day. To help their families, 30 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 are forced to work, which robs them of the educational opportunities that could break their families’ cycles of intergenerational poverty.
Simply put, Africa is sitting on a time bomb unless it creates its own jobs through the ingenuity, ability, and skill of its own people. It is our job as leaders to ensure that the millions of young people who are willing to put in the work to improve their future have every opportunity to experiment, learn, adapt—and eventually succeed. We must use this significant inflection point in the continent’s history to guarantee that the entrepreneurial nimbleness, grit, and vigor of Africa’s youth can be utilized to help lift the economies of Africa.
In the face of many daunting challenges, Africa needs a mental bailout. Until we can think differently; we cannot have different results.
AmanamHillary Umo-Udofia is a C4D expert and digital communications specialist. Connect from him on Twitter @amanamhillary.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.