1 Nov 2011

Unlocking the Youth Potential for Africa’s Development

According to the United Nations World Youth Report (2010), young people under the age of 35 comprise 60 per-cent of the continent’s total population, with a projection to reach over 75 per-cent in 2015. Although this huge-bulge represents the continent’s greatest asset for development, many have argued that Africa has not yet tapped into the potential of this demographic advantage. In fact, the youth are facing numerous challenges on the continent, including amongst others;

·         Poverty: many of the youth suffered the consequences of severe poverty from birth, a situation worsened by the rising cost of child rearing and reduced availability of many basic commodities. Many young people in Africa are impoverished and face difficulty accessing basic education and employment. 
·         Growing population: by 2015, the population aged 15-24 years in Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to reach 200 million, and the population aged 15-34 years projected to be 343 million, but there is no proper planning to match the anticipated population increase
·         Plummeting levels of income: Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in the world that has registered a sharp increase in the total number of young working poor (those subsisting on less than US$1 per day); between 1995 and 2005, the number rose from 36 million to 45 million


·         Low levels of education: over the last two decades, progress has been made in the area of gender equality. Young female literacy rates in Africa have increased from 58.0 to 66.9 per cent, compared to a smaller increase of 72.0 to 78.4 per cent for young men. However, young women continue to lag behind and higher education enrolment continues to favour young males.
·         Increasing rates of unemployment: the rate was 19, 5 percent in 2005 in Sub-Saharan Africa. Between 1995 and 2005, this number rose to approximately 34 percent. Young people in the region are three times more unlikely than adults aged 25 and above to be unemployed. Twenty seven percent of youth are neither in school nor at work. Youth unemployment is also much higher in urban than in rural areas
·         In 2007, an estimated 3.2 million young people were living with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa alone                                                                 (UN-HABITAT, 2010; ECA, 2011).

Given the above, the African Monitor has identified a hopeful, forward-looking and action-oriented over-arching theme of "Unlocking the African Moment: the Agenda for a People-Centred Momentum" where the role and importance of the youth are seen as critical in the development processes of the continent.  The African Monitor believes that “unless the youth potentials are unlocked, Africa will not achieve its development agenda”.

The African Monitor sees youth participation as the active and meaningful involvement of young people in all aspects of their own, and their communities’ development, including their empowerment to contribute to decisions about their personal, family, social, economic and political development. It thus means that young people should not be seen as passive recipients of national resources or the root causes of society’s problems. But that they should be seen as important stakeholders who can and do have the ability to make important contributions to their countries’ development and whose involvement must therefore be appropriately nurtured and cultivated.

In January 2009 in Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia, the Assembly of Heads of States and Governments of the African Union declared the years 2009 to 2018 as the Decade on Youth Development in Africa. During the decade, the African Union Commission and member states will collectively implement the African Union’s 10 year Plan of Action on youth development in Africa.
The Youth Decade Plan of Action is the most comprehensive framework for African youth empowerment and development that the African Union has developed. If it is not adequately implemented by the African Union Commission, Regional Economic Communities and member states, it will significantly impact the already dire conditions of the youth in Africa and thereby inhibit sustainable and equitable economic growth of the continent. “If commitments are not widely known, owned and implemented, they are not taken seriously by either party or by citizens”.

The critical question therefore becomes: “Who is going to make sure that the Youth Decade Plan of Action is effectively implemented by the AUC, RECs and member states within the prescribed time?”

To respond to this crucial question, the African Monitor always faithful to its vision and mission and  in partnership with Inter Faith Action for Peace in Africa acknowledged the need to unlock the youth potentials to contribute in the development of the continent; took the initiative to establish an independent Alliance of African youth organizations and networks, called “African Youth Alliance”, which has a specific mission to advocate AUC, RECs and Member States to effectively implement the Youth Decade Plan of Action. The African Youth Alliance will officially be launched on 8 November 2011 in Johannesburg in South Africa. The launch will follow the steering committee meeting of the Alliance scheduled on 7 November 2011 in Johannesburg. The Alliance will be coordinated by a steering committee which comprises of key African youth organizations and networks.
Freddy Nkosi
African Monitor Trust
Tel: +27 21 713 28 02