Africa should centre its development agenda on a deliberate strategy to curb youth unemployment.
It is revealed by statistics that youth and women constitute the majority of the population on the continent.
Consequently, broad consensus has emerged that tackling issues of development that face women and youth is where we should begin as the continent if we are serious about achieving meaningful development.
For the sake of this article, which aims at reflecting on how the African continent can drive development in the continent, I intend to tease out strategies of development through a youth perspective.
Youth development policy framework in the continent has been evolving over time.
The African Youth Charter currently serves as the premier integrated policy framework on youth development for the African continent.
This charter is reinforced by other complimentary protocols such as the youth debate plan of action, the Malabo decision on youth empowerment, the sexual and reproductive health rights continental framework, the African Union gender policies as well as the AU agenda 2063.
Critical to note is that agenda 2063 recognises that the future of the continent rests on a combination of variables.
Although not limited to them, but chief among these variables, are such factors as improving the knowledge base of the continent, investment in skills development (sometimes referred to as the skills revolution), promoting talent and encouraging commitment among the youth.
All of this is stipulated very well on agenda 2063, specifically aspiration no. 6, which deals with “The Africa we want”.
This says “An Africa whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth, and caring for children.”
Arising from this vision and its particular emphasis on children and youth, it is now more than clear that the African continent has no choice but to deliberately invest in its future generation.
In this regard, the continent has to devise systematic and practical plans to fund the development of the capabilities of its youth in the present in order to prepare them for the future.
Furthermore, the assembly of heads of state and government decided at its 26th ordinary summit in Addis Ababa on January 31 2016 to devote the theme for 2017 to “Harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in the Youth”.
This was in acknowledgement of the strong need to urgently transform Africa’s large youth population into a demographic dividend that benefits the continent in its development.
Proceeding from this understanding, the 29th African Union assembly of heads of state and government meeting in July 2017 decided on the establishment of the African Youth Fund.
This fund should critically focus on improving levels of education, skills development broadly and to actively promote science, technology, research and innovation as part of a strategy to build knowledge and human capital for Africa’s sustainable development.
In light of the emergent and developing global trends, it will also be of critical importance to prepare African youth for the 4th and 5th industrial revolutions.
This has to be done with the highest pace in order to not be outpaced by other continents, especially given our already disadvantaged position as an underdeveloped continent.
All of this has to be undertaken while also pulling up many young people who have no skills base at all. This is crucial to ensure that the continent is not left behind.
Among many initiatives to consider in this regard is to modernise African agriculture and develop the African agribusiness sector so that it is attractive to youth so that we simultaneously deal the big challenges of an ageing population of skilled farmers, deal with the lack of skills among the youth and deal with a challenge food insecurity.
It is very clear that policy frameworks for Africa’s development exist but the biggest challenge for the continent is the actual implementation of these policies.
In this regard, it is critical that the youth must consider mobilising itself and take action as the main driver of change in the continent.
The reality is that it might be a waste of human energy to expect the very old African leadership to invest in youth development.
The youth of the continent must unite in forcing itself to decision making structures and implementation institutions.
Thereafter, it should create very strong monitoring and evaluation strategies as well as institutions of enforcing accountability.
To achieve this objective of self-development, the youth of the continent must use its numerical majority as effective power and use their votes consciously to change the continent for the better.
They must be selfless with their votes by voting younger, ethically sound and visionary leaders who themselves must demonstrate innovation, an understanding of sustainable development and Pan-Africanist orientated, where the development is of benefit to African people and their continent at large.
• Yamkela Fanisi is a youth activist and a postgraduate student in public and development management at the University of the Witwatersrand