African Youth Day takes place every 1st of November. This Day was set aside by the African Union’s Executive Council during the adoption of the African Youth Charter in Banjul in 2006. The purpose of this historic day is to emphasis the role of youth as key agents for social change and economic growth on the continent. On this occasion, Nigerian Youth 4 Peace Initiatives (NYPI) congratulates all youth in Nigeria and Africa for their role(s) in achieving sustainable peace and development on the continent.
On April 11 2014, the Director of the United Nations Millennium Campaign, Corrine Woods during a meeting on Africa’s demographic dividend in New York established that “Africa is home to the youngest and most productive population in the world”. Sub-Saharan Africa is a region where youth constitute about half of the population. Thus, the theme for this year’s commemoration ‘Promoting Youth Mainstreaming as a Catalyst towards Harnessing the Demographic Dividend’ becomes necessary.
At this juncture, it is important to point out that the management of youth and opportunities provided to them determines whether they are a “ticking bomb” or an asset for the development of their countries. While it is unfortunate that in Africa, youth have instigated violence, civil conflicts and pose threat to national security, it is also true that many of them are working tirelessly towards achieving sustainable peace and development.
As we commemorate with youth across the continent, it is also important to reflect on some of the challenges confronted by youth in Africa:
Unemployment: The rate of unemployment in Africa remains very worrisome. According to the World Bank, youth account for 60% of Africa’s unemployed. Majority of them are employed to do indecent jobs or get work in places with low wages. Employment in recent times is no longer based on merit but on “connections”; nepotism has become very rampant in every facet of economy. Unemployment of youth undermines social harmony and peaceful co-existence. Just as the saying goes, “an idle hand is the devil’s workshop”, when majority of the youth are not engaged productively, it is easy to mobilize them for violent engagement. For example, in Nigeria, unemployed youth are employed by politicians who use them to commit all sort of social vices such as kidnapping, assassination of their opponents, rigging of elections and as body guards; because they are desperate to put food on their table and earn a living, they become vulnerable. Unemployment among youths has also led to drug abuse, internet fraud, prostitution, armed robbery, kidnapping and conflicts.
Lack of education: Despite the burgeoning youth population in the continent, majority of the youth are uneducated which impedes the transformative growth of the individuals and country. The right to education has become a mirage for many youth. The United Nations estimated that over 50% (133 million) of youth in Africa are illiterate, majority of who are young women. Many youth drop out of school for many reasons such as lack of finance, poverty, illness, poor infrastructure and the fears of not securing a good job after school. While Sustainable Development Goal four (4) emphasizes the importance of education among youth worldwide because it helps them fulfill their potential, unfortunately, many schools have become targets for attacks in times of armed conflict and also a centre for “forceful recruitment” into armed groups.
Lack of entrepreneurial skills: The plight of youth have become more pathetic because many of them are not equipped with skills which would help them earn a living; although the government of countries in Africa have established programmes to empower youths such as the Youth Employment in Agricultural Programme (YEAP), YouWin (Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria), N-Power Programme, Youth Entrepreneur Support (YES)in Nigeria, Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF), Kazi Kwa Vijana (KKV) (meaning jobs or work for youth) in Kenya to reduce youth unemployment, these programmes are not implemented properly and are not monitored adequately; as a result, the sole purpose of these programmes which is to reduce unemployment among the youths has not really being achieved.
Exclusion from political process: In the words of Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General, “no one is born a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy. Rather, both are processes that continue to evolve over a life time. Young people must be included from birth. A society that cuts off from its youth severs its lifeline”.
Times have changed from the 1960’s and 1970’s when leaders and even members of parliament were youth. In recent times, youth have been excluded from the political processes and decision making institutions coupled with other forms of marginalisation linked to gender, community, culture etc. Youth make up more than half of the population in Africa and excluding them from decision making processes is indirectly denying the voice of the majority to be heard. Those who are being appointed ministers are usually in their late fifties or sixties; even the current minister of youth in Nigeria is over fifty and such age does not fall within the age range classified as youth. The United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 defines youth as persons within the age of 18-29.
In Africa, majority of the civil wars plaguing the continents have been perpetrated by youths and most times, they bear the brunt of the conflict, yet, the participation and views of the youths are not taken into account, how then can positive and sustainable peace be achieved?
It is a great privilege for the international community that the importance of youth has been given a global recognition with the adoption of the United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2250 on 9th December 2015. The domestication of this resolution should be taken more seriously by member states by investing in them, create employment opportunities and include them in decision making because they remain a powerful tool for sustainable peace and development.
Finally, on this occasion, Nigerian Youth 4 Peace Initiative (NYPI) calls on the governments, private sector and all relevant stakeholders to partner with youth in the quest for sustainable peace and development.
AJASA MOTUNRAYO & AJALA BABAWALE
Members, Nigerian Youth 4 Peace Initiative (NYPI)
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; +2348054151494.