African youth have an opportunity to make the required change! Fueled by increasing internet connectivity and mobile technology in the region, the rising tide of young entrepreneurs who are the forefront of creating investment opportunities makes the youth pivotal asset in unlocking and accelerating sustainable development. Hence, the youthful generation full of energy, technology mastery, talent, and creativity represent a silver of good news in Africa making Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) a reality. They stand between the intersection of failures, accomplishments, and potential of the Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development. Reaffirming the essentiality of youths, The UN Secretary, General Antonio Guterres, notes that youths are agents of SDGs since they not only inspire change, but they possess the energy, talents and creativity.
Additionally, the promising youth demographics in the continent is overriding. The African continent has a relatively young population; with latest data by UNICEF estimating that almost 50% of African Population is under 18 years and 65% of the population under 35 years, the largest youth the world has ever experienced, which can potentially create a demographic dividend or a demographic disaster. The demographic dividend the population presents is a large working population, which could be harnessed by creating opportunities where the youths can exploit their potentials. The opportunities could be created by engaging the youths in discussion on SGDs. Their engagement would empower them to focus their creativity and innovations in addressing the challenges that SDG’s address.
Given the above trends, young people in Africa should be engaged as partners and agents, as opposed to beneficiaries, is essential in driving the SDGs and the future the youths envision. Economic empowerment and networks for advocacy are the two main channels through which the engagement in the sustainability agenda can be realized. The economic empowerment spans from ensuring relevance of the education system, to increasing capital access for the youths while the advocacy channel spans from seizing the social media momentum to the establishment of local and regional youth networks to promote communication of SDGs agenda. In addition governments should have polices and rules that will enable the youth to engage with the 2030 Agenda.
To turn their great ideas into reality, empowering the young via experiential learning essential to counter the competency gap resulting from the current education system. The bustling innovation hubs in the region mainly occupied by young entrepreneurs pursuing development and deployment of technologies addressing continents main pressing challenges from food to social integration represents experiential learning opportunity. However, more needs to be done to offer the youths skills that enhance their creativity. The late Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International Development proposes integration of education, research and innovation by creation of “Innovation Universities” if Africa is to fully reap the benefits of the demographic dividend.
The high level of connectivity and access to social media by the youths in the continent make them drivers of change in local communities. Geopoll latest survey on media consumption and mobile usage by African millennial find out that over 60% of youths use social media as their primary source of information making social media platforms integral part of their daily life. Trends in Africa such as the @GhanaDecides that enabled monitoring of Ghana’s elections are demonstrating increasingly vigilance of the youths in the democratic space and development of agenda of their respective nations. Seizing the social media momentum is undeniable in tracking progress and sharing of best practices on the Agenda 2030 on Sustainable development. Additionally, the youth could use their social media connectivity to defend the marginalized individuals in their communities.
Notwithstanding the social media momentum, role of youths goes beyond use of social media to communicate the SDGS to engaging in local, national and regional decision-making platforms. Governments ought to create environments where the youths are at the governance table to inform decisions, influence budget allocations and development priorities. Their engagement will additionally promote inter-generational partnerships and holistic approach ensuring that all generations are catered for in the sustainable development agenda. Catalytic SDGs network projects targeting the youths such as the Case4Space in Asia Pacific, Youth Voice in Latin America and Youth Connect Initiative in Africa by UNDP have reported triggering a cascade effect in engaging the youths as sustainability agenda agents. Therefore, networking opportunities will be profound in engaging youths in local and regional discussions and exchange experiences about the SDGs.
As part of this trajectory, I will be launching Wesustain as a platform where the youth will engage together for the better future.