Africa is sitting on a time bomb when it comes to its youth and I stand by my words. All the signs are showing that the neglect of the youth of Africa is a ticking time bomb and the earlier the politicians of Africa sit up to address their concerns, the better, it will be for the continent in moving forward.
This article is precipitated, by the recent demonstration at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and technology in Ghana where properties were destroyed and some students, as well authorities and security personnel have been casualties of the violent attacks. This demonstration to me, is a clear litmus test for all politicians across the continent. The youth of Africa have been at the centre of what I call ‘’political football’’ where they have been at the receiving end of blatant lies, abuse, corruption, framing of policies that doesn't meet their needs and what I perceive as politicians being insensitive to their grievances. There is an African proverb that says you cannot hide the smoke when the house is burning. That is, we cannot continue to neglect and keep a blind eye to the youth of Africa when all the signs show they are becoming frustrated by the way they are treated on a consistent basis.
According to the 2012 African Economic Outlook report brought out by experts from the African Development Bank (AfDB), the UN Development Program (UNDP), the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the industrialized countries’ Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), among others’’, ‘’it is estimated that with 200 million people aged between 15 and 24 (the youth bracket), Africa has the youngest population in the world. The current trend indicates that this figure will double by 2045.
Moreover, according to Kelvin Balogun – President of Coca-Cola, Central, East and West Africa – has said; ‘’Almost half of the 10 million graduates churned out of the over 668 universities in Africa yearly do not get jobs’’, upon graduation.
These figures are scary, absurd and tantamount to the idea that the African continent, is sitting on a time bomb. I say this because, a population full of young energetic people who have nothing substantial at stake to improve their lives, are more likely to use such bottled-up energy in the wrong way, and in an unproductive manner when they become agitated and idle for a long period of time.
Using Ghana as a case study, this is made worse when you consider that, recently the immigration Service of Ghana was seeking to employ five hundred (500) candidates but eight four thousand (84,00) young people applied. This shows the scale of unemployment in the country and this statistic is similar in other African countries.
It is interesting and at the same time sad when Africa, is the richest continent in terms of natural resources but unfortunately, it is inhabited by the poorest people on earth. Hence no one is surprised when it is bedridden with poverty, wars, endless conflicts, terrorism, lack of healthcare and infrastructure among other things. It's not entirely wrong to even remotely suggest that, the lack of leadership has rendered the people of the continent to suffer immensely, especially the youth.
However, one of the biggest challenges on the continent of Africa is unemployment. A vibrant youth with no or fewer opportunities are likely to be a big threat to any nation that refuses to address its unemployment situation.
Therefore, African leaders in finding lasting solutions to the plight of the youth of Africa, must involve all stakeholders such as the politicians, parents, appropriate institutions and the public and private sector to engage them. The fact is, you cannot prescribe medication to a sick person if you don’t know their symptoms. Meaning understanding their problems is the first step in finding solutions. Also, to win the heart of anyone is to let them have a sense of belonging especially in Governance. That is involving them in policy framework and certain decision making will make them have confidence in the leaders. The leaders must have a critical look at unemployment and find strategic ways of creating jobs establishing a fertile ground for entrepreneurship to thrive by working in partnership with the private sector. The youths of Africa are one of the most talented, but they lack resources that can enhance their skills, gifting and talents. Therefore, our leaders must invest in the youth through career and entrepreneurship initiatives that support their vision and create an enabling environment for them to succeed.
In conclusion, I will end with the recent statement of the President of Ghana, Akufo-Addo, addressing the 9th High-Level Retreat on the Promotion of Peace, Security and Stability in Africa said the African continent is blessed with a lot of youth, however, their continued unemployment challenge, poses a continental security threat that must be dealt with within the shortest possible time. It is a volcano about to erupt, as an army of unemployed youth in Africa continues to grow.
African leaders must, therefore, learn to be proactive rather than being reactive concerning the youth in creating employment and engaging the youth to identify their needs and match it with appropriate solutions.
Remember that it is possible if only you believe.
Article by Oscar Bimpong
Author, Lecturer, Transformational Speaker & Business Consultant
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