Our youth deserve more than a seat at the table

4th Africa Inclusive Conference

Delegates follow proceedings at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Nairobi on May 31, 2023, during the 4th Africa Inclusive Conference, whose mission is to scale up the advancement of digital accessibility and computer-assistive technology in Africa.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

The youth have the power to take public matters into their hands and use their collective power to be the change they want. After all, they are the majority, they are stronger and more energetic, with dynamic new ideas.

Africa is the youngest continent with 70 per cent of Sub-Saharan Africa under 30. Some 20 per cent of the world’s youth reside in Africa, with the number projected to double by 2030. This presents great opportunities to boost Africa’s growth—but only if the youth are supported to realise their full potential.

To appreciate the potential of young people, we have to only look at how they have actively shaped Africa’s technology landscape. Most of the remarkable innovations today were created by young people. For example, M-Pesa, the world’s leading mobile money platform, was invented by a young Kenyan.

Increasingly, many actors are making efforts to create platforms that promote youth voices, especially in governance and civic engagement, participation in budget decision-making processes and advocating policies that reflect their interests.

Opening doors

Initiatives such as Kenya’s Youth Fund and the Youth Livelihood Programme in Uganda, which promote youth enterprise development as a critical strategy for increasing economic opportunities, are other innovative ways of opening doors for meaningful youth participation as leaders, influencers, service providers, researchers and peer educators in politics, business and civic activism.

Yet without adequate opportunities, youth contribute to the costly problems that plague our countries—like crime, violence, alcohol and drug abuse. To change the narrative, we must move beyond giving the youth ‘a seat at the table’ to investing in them to use that seat for good. The youth must be enabled to act as equal partners of positive social change.

Moreover, governments must implement laws and policies that prioritise the youth’s needs and create enabling environments for them to thrive. In addition, our education programmes need to be reimagined to nurture the entrepreneurial spirit of the youth to tap into their energies for good.

The International Youth Day, to be marked on Saturday, is a good moment to enhance focus on our youth. The event is designed to harness the agency, creativity and voices of the youth for actualisation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by equipping them with the resources, skills and tools for personal and community transformation.

For this reason, for instance, ChildFund has partnered with Leap Africa, Dow and various governments to support youth in 24 African countries to celebrate the Youth Day of Service. In line with this year’s theme, “Green skills for youth: Towards a sustainable World’”, the youth can engage in various programmes focusing on mitigating the impact of climate change and promoting entrepreneurship.

We can and must do more for our young people. This is the only way we can reap great dividends from their energy and innovation to drive Africa’s socioeconomic growth and development.

Mr Ngugi is the Africa regional director, ChildFund International. [email protected].