Much of the talk about Africa’s development is centered on harnessing the continent’s vast discovered and undiscovered resources. While there is nothing wrong with resource expansion and economic opportunity, there must be increased dialogue and initiative focused on youth development.
According to the Youth Division of the African Union Commission (2014), approximately 65 percent of Africa’s population is under the age of 35 years old, making it the youngest continent.
Disillusionment among the youth is a dangerous thing, which can easily lead to conflict, civil unrest, or civil war, and recruitment to terrorist organizations.
As the saying goes, “Children are the future”; therefore, we must invest in the educational training of the youth and provide them with opportunities.
Educational access and job growth must coincide in order to utilize Africa’s greatest asset.
It is not enough to educate the youth, because after they graduate there must be jobs available for them. As highlighted in “Africa Renewal” (2013), a United Nations publication, 60 percent of those unemployed in Africa are youth.
This reality presents African nations with both a dilemma and an opportunity: It is a dilemma, because poverty poses a threat to the overall health of any nation, terrorism has become a major concern, and about 40 percent of youth who join such organizations cite lack of employment as their motivation (Africa Renewal, 2013; World Bank, 2011).
This should be the impetus for serious action.
However, there is yet great potential for African nations to improve their school systems, create vocational and trade programs, offer financial assistance to students, encourage private sector job growth, and employ graduates who will help modernize their countries.
We must construct a plan right now that ensures a promising future for African youth because their time is now.
All over the world, youth are becoming the majority of the population. We do not want our youth to lag behind their counterparts in other nations. Peace, stability, and advancement, depend upon our level of investment and commitment to the development of our youth.
Investment in our youth is the smartest use of African money and resources that will continue to yield results for years and generations to come.