"The Midweek Read": The African Union Desperately Needs a Development Strategy Directly Targeting African Youth

By: Deonta Wortham

Africa; the forgotten, the cast aside, the overlooked. The African continent, which has long been considered the “last frontier” of economic growth and development, has finally come into its own.

Today, new innovative ideas are emerging across the continent and are providing needed support to emerging African markets and the African marketplace in its entirety. These advancements are primarily due to the work of young, innovative individuals across the continent. Their efforts have highlighted the fact that the cultivation of bright African minds will be of the utmost importance to both the African continent and international community in the coming decades.

Today nearly two-thirds of the African continent’s population is under the age of 25. Two-thirds; to say the very least, the African continent is ripe with what young minds that are bursting with potential. This fact will not change at any point in the near future. It is forecasted that between the year 2015 and 2035 nearly 500,000 young Africans will enter the labor market. Noting these current and forecasted trends, measures must be taken to ensure that that these individuals have the capacity to capitalize trends of economic growth seen across the continent.

Image Credit: Asante Africa 

Image Credit: Asante Africa 

The current norm of inefficient production across the African economy simply will not suffice the overwhelming need for sustained development on the African continent.

Noting the anticipated importance of the African continent to the international economic sphere the African Union has designated the year 2063 as a pivotal “turning point” from which the African continent will emerge as an active economic actor.

The African Union’s Agenda 2063 notes the steps that will need to be taken to ensure that the African continent realizes its full economic potential. However, Agenda 2063 fails to mention one critical aspect that is conducive to the development of the continent in its entire; the development of the African youth population.

This critical oversight by the AU is detrimental to the continent’s development effort. Noting the prevalent skill gap that exists across the African continent, it is imperative that the African Union formulates a concrete development strategy that directly targets the growing youth cohort. 

Today, the education sector across the African continent is mediocre to say the very least. Students across the continent are found to be underperforming at detrimental levels. Furthermore, there have been no conclusive efforts taken to dynamically transform the nature of the African education system.  But, when third-graders in Tanzania are deemed illiterate, and when sixth-graders in Mozambique are found to lack basic comprehension skills the need for comprehensive reform should be considered priority number one.

Sadly, this has not been the case. The African Union has thus far ignored the need for a concrete development strategy that could be implemented alongside the development strategy detailed in Agenda 2063.

 Analysis of Agenda 2063, accompanied by examination of the current realities facing the African youth population reveal that skill development resonates as the continent’s most prominent development issue. The acquisition of portable skills among the African youth population will be critical to assurance that dynamic economic development occurs across the continent. In order to achieve collaborative forms of the economic growth, that are both transformative and sustainable over the long term, African governments must take poignant efforts to invest in human capital of Africa’s most valuable asset, the African continent’s youth population.

Through a series of reforms and a concrete youth development strategy this issue can be addressed. But, when will this be achieved? The answer to that question is unpredictable, but the significance of its conclusion is imperative to the African development effort.

Image Credit: IT News Africa

Image Credit: IT News Africa

Simply put, the African youth will be the drivers of dynamic economic and social change across the continent over the next century. They will facilitate the policies needed to ensure that transformative forms of development can occur. Problems facing their development simply must be addressed.  

The interntaional community will have to wait and see how the African Union and African governements decide to tackle this pressing issue.