International Youth Day, August 12th, was a day to recognize the importance of youth worldwide. The day is particularly significant in Africa, where almost 200 million people are between the ages of 15 and 24. The population is younger than anywhere else on the planet, and that proportion is expected to double in the next 30 years.
The new My World Survey, still being run on a dedicated website by the United Nations, cites “better job opportunities” as one of the top concerns of participants, close behind education and health care. The concern is particularly great with regard to jobs for the rapidly expanding youth population. The recently released African Economic Outlook report finds that over half of the continent’s population is below 30 years old.
The surprising figures, combined with low employment numbers create a dismal outlook. Donald Kaberuka, president of the African Development Bank (AfDB) observed, “Up to 40% of people are now living in unplanned, poorly equipped cities and towns, amidst squalor and unemployment. As a result, young people—around 15 million of whom enter the labor market each year—cannot find jobs, either because few are available, or because their skills do not match the needs… they become easy victims to terrorist groups or human traffickers promising them imaginary El Dorados, only for them to perish in the Mediterranean.”
ENABLE Youth (Empowering Novel Agri-Business-Led Employment for Youth in African Agriculture) is an initiative of the AfDB that is reaching out to nearly 800,000 youth in 20 countries throughout Africa. The program hopes to reach disenfranchised young adults with training for life skills, job training and technology. The obstacles faced by the youth of Africa include the shortage of land for the growing population to put to use in agricultural enterprises. Young women are at even more of a disadvantage with the additional challenges of patriarchal societies that limit access to both land and financial resources.
The trend toward inclusive development across the continent is encouraging, leading some to predict strong progress in all sectors.