The time has come for the African governments to address the alienation of young people, which fuels frustrations and create a sense of helplessness.

That’s according to the African Union’s (AU) Commissioner for Political Affairs, Dr Aisha Abdullahi.

She was speaking on the side-lines of the 28th AU Summit currently underway in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Abdullahi says young people are highly affected by the governance challenges of the continent, but are rarely considered in the efforts and programmes aimed at addressing them.

Africa is regarded as the most youthful continent with 65% of its one billion population below the age of 35 years. The current levels are expected to double by
2055. Almost 10 million young Africans are entering the labour market each year.

Dr Abdullaih says young people are a critical component of the AU’s vision of a prosperous and peaceful Africa. However, she admitted that there are challenges related to empowering young people, which include discrimination, limited access to quality education and decent job opportunities.

“In tackling these challenges we must empower young people to play their role as responsible citizens, and help deepen democratic practices on the continent. Young people are highly affected by the governance challenges but are rarely considered in efforts aimed at addressing them.”

Dr Abdullaih says there’s a need for urgent action by stakeholders to realise an Africa whose development is people centred and driven by young people.

“Member states must re-commit to increase investment in the productive and creative capacities of young people through quality education, skill and capacity
building programmes, technical and vocational education so as to equip them for the responsibility of advancing Africa’s transformation and development.”

This sentiment is shared by the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Abdalla Hamdok.

“The youth bulge can be a huge opportunity for economic and social transformation. Alternatively, it can be a source of instability as countries fail to harness their potential,” says Hamdock.

If anything, this year’s AU’s theme – Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investment in Youth- is indeed timely and is at the heart of the political,
economic and social debate on the continent’s development.

Click on the video for more on this story:

– By Amos Phago, Lehana Tsotetsi