The future can only truly be green if we empower today’s youth. According to the United Nations, the world is estimated to have 1.2 billion people within the age of 15 to 24. In Africa, 226 million are aged 15 to 24, which is nearly 20 percent of the Africa’s entire population, making up one fifth of the world youth population. It is yet projected that Africa’s youth population is expected to rise to 42 percent in 2030. These provide evident proof that the continent’s youthful population presents a powerful opportunity for a boom in economic growth, innovation and creativity.
In my many African countries, as in Nigeria, the potential of the youth is seen to be exploited by the government. African leaders are suspected to have a common trait of underestimating the power of the youth towards improving economic development, and this is not serving the continent well as less attention given to the empowerment of young people is one major factor accounting for the underdeveloped status of most African countries.
Establishing the Africa Youth Trust Fund through effective resource mobilization is one key step suggested to improve a mechanism for management and oversight for implementation of youths in harnessing economic growth. Among other things, the 28th African Union Summit which held in January 2017 also called for the “harnessing of youth’s potential through investment” and the aim for this was to build up and develop the potential of young people to make for growth and economic development in Africa.
Sustainable development in Africa can only be fully realized if its demographic advantage – large population of youth – is mobilized and equipped to help drive Africa’s integration, peace and development agenda. Africa’s new generation of youth are credited with emerging innovations that have put the continent in a spotlight. Tapping into growing digital revolution on the continent, young people are developing strategies and solutions that are addressing everyday issues and improving socio-economic conditions of people at both local and national levels. Majority of African countries are witnessing maturation by the youth in development of technological hub towards inventing mobile applications and market information systems that offer novel market tools to the agro-business value chain. The African youth is creating new jobs through agricultural software. This ingenuity is not only creating livelihoods for the youth but contributing to enhanced efficiency and productivity, and it is imperative that we tap into this “energy” especially in Nigeria.
To improve the spirit of youth potency towards improving economic development, a number of factors have to be put into consideration by the Nigerian government sand indeed leaders of all African countries for all round growth of the continent:
- Political Participation: More room must be given for young people to participate in the decision-making process of the nation as opposed to the complete disregard we see in the nation. The involvement of young people in the input and output processes of the country will improve the economic development of the country, through innovations, creativity, agricultural development and others, and produce a ripple effect in the overall progress of the nation.
- Agriculture: Agriculture has, for long, been dismissed as a mere practice of poor rural dwellers when in fact, agriculture is one of the surest sources of economic boom and employment. Attention is therefore needed to be channeled to the empowerment of young people to practice agriculture, in order to save the sector from its present ramshackle of a status. For example, the unemployment rate in Nigeria is currently at 27.1 percent according to the National Bureau of Statistics; the youth in Nigeria constitutes 60 percent of that figure. Meanwhile, only a quarter of the entire youth population is involved in agriculture. Why won’t the unemployment rate be high, when youth representation in one of the major sources of employment is very low. This low representation is largely due to poor agricultural modern machines empowerment, among other issues. Therefore, to increase participation of youth towards harnessing socio-economic development, the government has to create opportunities that encourage and direct young people to farming as a commercial business for increased income generation.
- Entrepreneurship: Youth empowerment for entrepreneurship has the potential to eradicate poverty. This will also subsidize the rate of unemployment and advance economic development.
- Education: Undoubtedly, education is the key to the growth of all aspects of life, as well as towards attaining sustainable development. Therefore, improving the quality of education that young people get to consume, and allowing for more opportunities for enlightenment and mental capacity development of young people will increase productivity that provides long-term benefits for the nation.
This article was written by Lukman Abdulmalik