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Opinions of Thursday, 19 November 2015

Columnist: Ananpansah, B. Abraham

Supersizing African youth population, a blessing or a disguise?

Let's arise youth of Africa! The time to spark the 21st-century revolutionary change is now!

Africa is that beautiful youngest continent replete with abundance of enviable natural resources.

As faith will have it, it is the only continent with a significantly growing youth population. Available data holds true that in less than three generations, 41% of the world's youth will be African. By 2035, Africa's labour force will be larger than China, and will account for 1/4 of the world's labour force.

Even though, the question of 'Youth' can sometimes take controversial definitional dimensions, the African Youth Charter adopted at the seventh ordinary session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of African Union in Banjul, Gambia, in July 2006, defines the youth as," a person between the age of 15 and 34 years".

There are some who will simply say it is a period of transition between childhood and adulthood.

In Africa specifically, data from the United Nations Population Division show that in 2010, young people aged (15 - 24 years) accounted for 20.2%(209 million) of the total population.

Other accessible data points to the fact that over 60% of Africa's population are under 20 years of age, and majority of these are females. In 2050, youth will constitute:
18.6% of the population in central Africa; 18.5% in Eastern Africa;18.8% in Western Africa; 15.6% in Southern Africa;13.9% in North Africa and about 36.8% of Africa's workforce are youth.

At a quick glance of the figures, a critical curious mind will quickly ask some acutely critical questions:
Are these figures a sign of a demographic divident (a blessing/asset) or a disguise (liability)? Have governments (both past and present) created and shaped the environment enough through policy intervention to contain the urgent needs of these teaming masses of youth?

As a youth, are we developing or being given the chance to develop our capacities and potentials as imperatives of democratisation and the vision of a preferred future for Africa?

Conversely, the enthusiasm, edge, vim, verve and dynamism of African youth should have been an asset of blessing in advance but it is fast been reduced to a liability of blessing in disguise.The youth in unspoken words, hold and are the future and hope of Africa.But what are we trying to do to this bright promising future?

Even though, in 2009, three years after its launch, the African Youth Charter (AYC) urge member states to endorse and adopt the charter, and develop and implement national policy for the youth - in Ghana for instance, it was unclear whether the country had a national youth policy in place.

Ghana officially launched its national youth policy on August 12,2010, as part of International Day Celebration endorsed by UN general assembly.But since then, no significant change has been seen or felt. Infact, government programmes to promote youth employment and empowerment in Africa are essentially dysfunctional and propaganda tools in the 21st century.

According to staticstics from the 2012 Mo Ibrahim forum, Youth unemployment increases with educational level in Africa.Literacy is growing, but Africa still lags behind the rest of the world.Young Africans are more literate than their parents, but more unemployed.

In 2009, the youth unemployment rate was at 11.9% in Sub-Sahara Africa and 23.7% in North Africa. It has been estimated that out of about 250,000 young people entering the labour market annually, only 2%(50,000) get employed in the formal sector....

Agriculture which happen to be the backbone of the continent has been poorly developed and reduced to a poor and dirty man's job; making it highly unattractive to the youth. In rural areas, for instance, 53% of occupied rural youth are not into agriculture, but engaged in other activities. Less than 2% of African youth are studying agric.

Sadly enough,the youth are largely rendered nolle presequi in pursuing the dreams and visions of a better future for Africans by the older folks.

We are constantly, been employed by unscrupulous politicians and reduced as tools and stooges and subjected to selfish political tricks, emasculations, manipulations -and used as means to an end defined by the whims of selfishly corrupt leaders; instead of being seen as necessary partners in development.

Change they say is the only fact of life."Time and tide waits for no man--or person" -Shakespeare.

Along with change comes fear, threats and insecurity as well as challenges and opportunities.

In the dynamics of globalisation and change, what distinguish successful countries from less success ones is the existence of leaders with the capabilities of anticipating change and responding effectively in that light.

Unassailability true, the current generation of African leaders are failing to respond to the challenges of change and globalisation and to create an environment for the evolution of succeeding younger generations of leaders...It is also worthy of note that although today, we have a crop of potential young leaders, the socio-political and economic environment is impeding us from striving and standing for Africa.

The younger generation of Africans are highly educated with all the understanding of the trends in modern development but overwhelmed by the legacy of the past and present older folks, as well as the system, the glorification of mediocrity continues unabated!

Increasingly true, we cannot also run away from the fact that, our problems as Africans and a youth for that matter are deeply rooted in history.

Indeed, the persistent negative images painted about Africa as a violent prone continent unable to solve its own problems are particularly unhealthy and damaging.

Making the youth cast doubts on our unlimited capabilities and confidence and immersing us in a complete psychological whirlpool of trauma.We are fast losing our cultural identity as a continent. Joseph K - zerbo once said, "It is not possible to cash a cheque drawn on someone's else's cultural bank account".

As a result of this lost cultural identity, we live in a continent that is fast exposed to the promiscuous dangers of westernisation and fast loosing confidence in its own potentials.

For instance, in 2007, an estimated 3.2 million young people were living with HIV in Sub-Saharan African alone, and 50% of all doctors trained in Ghana since 1980s are practicing in OECD...a host of other graduates prefer driving taxi cabs and doing other menial jobs in US and UK than staying home to develop Africa.

At a time when developed and developing countries are racing for the limited space in the 21st century, there is no room for idiosyncrasies or sentiments.We cannot whinger nor linger and continue to depend on tricky foreign aids and grants.

In the midst of the challenging lacunas and the seemingly negative unfavourable legacy, I am overly convinced as an advocate for the youth that the time is just right and the time is now to spark a revolutionary change. I feel a positive vibration of change across Africa through the youth.

Our numbers must not scare us. It should rather hint us that the dependency ratio on the continent will soon reduce with increasing labour force.

Youth is the spirit of adventure and awakening.It is the time of physical emerging. To be called a youth is not a process of being but rather becoming.Hence, let's begin changing our mindset in order to defeat mental slavery and pave the way forward for the continent to flourish.

As Samuel Ullman rightly put it,"youth is not a time of life;it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, quality of imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep spring of life".

Yes, the youth are the hope and future of Africa but let's remember that, "A man who dread trials and difficulties cannot become a revolutionary.If he is to become a revolutionary with an indomitable fighting spirit, he must be tempered in the arduous struggle from his youth.As the saying goes, early training means more than late earnings"-Kim Jong II.

The vision of African renaissance should not be equated to manners that must fall from above.It simply has to take a critical crop of aggressive young leaders with the right competence, conscientization, entrepreneurial skills, integrity to drive the home grown revolutionary change.History must and i repeat for emphasis must not be repeated!

Let's be inspired by the apparent success of the Soviet Union and Communist China in rebuilding their societies and feeding their peoples.

Interesting enough, we will have no excuse letting African down.

Probably, the first generation of African leaders had their success and failure.Four decades of independence down the lane; we have learned and experienced. We have the past and present to guide and guard us.

We need to create and sustain the synergetic impulses of past and present generation of leaders. Whiles making justifiable pride in striving to annex the immutable component of dogma or fixed traditions by which we learn what to believe, thus, stucking us in prejudice and limitations and never free to change and grow by thinking critically...

As we progress along the journey lets be guided by the following words:
"...It is right and proper that we should know about our past.For just as the future moves from the present so the present has emerged from the past.Nor need we be ashamed of our past. There was much in it of glory.

What our ancestor achieved in the Context of their contemporary society gives us confidence that we can create, out of that past, a glorious future, not in terms of war or military pomps, but in terms of social progress and or peace... Our battles shall be against the old ideas that keep man trammelled in their own greed; against the crass stupidities that breed hatred, fear and inhumanity.

The heroes of our future will be those who can lead our people out of the stifling fog of disintegration through serfdom, into the valley of light where purpose, endeavour and determination will create that brotherhood which Christ proclaimed two thousand years ago, and about which so much is said, but little done".(Kwame Nkrumah, The Autobiography of Kwabena Nkrumah, 1957).

Yes, African youth arise! Your continent is calling you to be the game changers challenging the nay sayers whiles paving the way forward.

May God bless the continent Africa and deliver our leaders from the spirit of corruption and sheer greed...

Dedicated to all African youth in the youth struggle.Youth Advocacy is the source of inspiration behind this write up.

BY: Ananpansah, B. Abraham ( AB)
(Community Radio Youth Advocate and Student - University Of Ghana Business School)
Contact(s):0241129910 / 0200704844
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