Africa is currently basking in the glory of being the next global economic frontier, and at the fore-front of this progress are its youths who make up the bulk of the population.
Underpinned by high fertility rates, about 62 percent of Africans’ bulging population is less than 35 years old and by 2020, three of every four Africans will be less than 20 years, an African Development Bank report had stated last year.
Yet a cursory look at Africa shows that there is still a huge gap to be filled in bringing on young people into the leadership and rebirth of the new Africa.
However, one group is stepping up to fill this gap. It is the Network of African Youths for Development (NAYD), a network for African youths to know one another in the field of development and hopefully work together wherever possible.
In this interview, the group’s steering group leader and webmaster respectively – Paul Shaw and Judyannet Muchiri, told Oluwabusayo Sotunde how the group is advancing Africa’s growth and development, especially through the use of social media.
Tell us about your organisation and the role it plays in fostering development among African youths.
NAYD is about youth-led sustainable development in Africa. We create a platform that brings together young people working in development projects in different capacities to create a ripple effect that catalysts sustainable development in Africa.  This is done via the various social media channels that we have by providing people with current information, engaging them in topical discussions and linking them together to form meaningful partnerships.
NAYD hopes to strengthen networks already existing among the youths and create one voice of synergy that can shape policy and go ahead to implement it driving Africa towards self-sustainability.
What are the success and challenges encountered by your organisation?
Success: We have expanded to over 60,000 members across our various social media since NAYD began in 2006 creating a network of young people who are going to shape development in the next few years at the local communities in Africa. NAYD has also been able to push and breakdown the SDGs to the youth encouraging them to localize and own these goals at a personal and local level. We have done this by partnering with other national and international organizations.
Challenges: getting commitments from our volunteers since we are entirely voluntary and have no funds. ICT is also a big challenge for an organization that works mostly on the digital platform, though most of urban Africa is connected with high speed internet most of rural Africa, where most of our members are, remains cut off from reliable internet. Technology is an issue that the development actors need to seriously consider if Africa is to break free from under-development.
What project(s) is your organisation working on to impact on the African community?
We operate mainly through social media bringing young people interested in development together. This year we are focusing on the post 2015 agenda holding discussions and debates on the SDG proposals in our various social media channels. Some of them include a weekly chat on Twitter #NaydChat which brings in experts in different fields to address the SDGs and engage with young people for an hour of moderated chat, and a monthly Google hangout with young people who are involved in different CBOs/NGOs in Africa which aims to bring out the voice of the youth in various topics like the potential of Africa to Implement the SDGs. NGO of the Month is a feature we do every month to recognize those CBOs you are not likely to read about in mainstream media; we highlight their work and celebrate them. We are also regularly partnering with other organizations to push for youth-led development in Africa.
As an organisation that brings African youths together for a common goal, from practical experience, will you say  young people in Africa are rising up to the challenge of development in Africa and why?
There are some very committed African youths eager to see sustainable development in Africa but my experience is that they are few and far between. More needs to be done to make the youth own the process of development; they have to understand that a developed Africa ultimately benefits them at most.
Is there room for improvement on how they can facilitate achieving development goals for the continent?
Most definitely – I think there are too many distractions – sustainable development is not a priority for most. It is important for them to focus and do what they are best at. Of course we can’t all be masters of everything but with passion then comes committed action towards a specific area of interest. That is missing, along with the distraction that comes with the youth accessing social media easily.
What is needed to be done differently in terms of development?
There has to be trust in the political system – the politicians should lead by example. Corruption has to be drastically reduced.  Pan Africanism should be at the core of the development agenda. Development should also go beyond the confines of the national and international levels to the local communities, rural livelihoods where majority of Africans are taught that demography is fast changing. The voice of these people must be heard to make it a people-powered development.
Advise to young Africans reading this?
‘Be the change you want to see in the world’ – Mahatma Ghandi. Actions speak louder than words.