African government youth policy: have we failed the youth? Time for a new deal.
It is time for a new deal that harnesses the potential of the young people of Africa.
Written by Prosper Mubangizi
Centre For Policy Analysis/ Parliament Watch Uganda.
The Tory Government policy to social protection in the late 1990s and early 2000s was geared towards “Finding employment for those who can and security for those who cannot”. The underlying Philosophy behind this policy approach was that capitalism by its very nature and make was meant to leave a certain section of the population behind while it gave wings to previously unprecedented people. This is a policy approach that African governments should have taken yesterday in a bid to ensure inclusive growth and development.
Whereas the African Union Agenda 2063 is seen as a pro youth continental development blueprint, little has been done to translate those well intentioned written continental aspirations into tangible development programs, economic recovery plans and youth empowerment agendas. Aspiration six of the African Union Agenda 2063 states that “An Africa where development is people driven, unleashes the potential of its women and youth”. This is a policy direction that is intended to put the young people of this continent at the centre of its policy making, growth and development but almost a decade since African Heads of State agreed to actualise such aspirations, this is yet to be achieved to its desired end.
It should be noted that Africa is currently endowed with what many development scholars call a youth bulge because of having a population that is in the dependence age meaning that more and more people are becoming youth each month. For instance, it is estimated that 300,000 people attain the youth age in Uganda on a monthly basis translating into new 3.6 million youth per annum. By 2050, Africa will have 2.5 Billion people which will be more than the populations of China and India combined. This population trend is anticipated to remain as it is even if women of reproductive age attained the replacement level of 2.1 children per women.
From a policy perspective, this demographic trajectory calls for new innovative approaches as opposed to the “business as usual” approach. African governments should have started investing in critical sectors like accessible and quality education, affordable health care and sexual reproductive health and services, good governance practices, job creation, innovation and human capacity development.
The failure to invest in development programs that address the context specific challenges faced by the young people means that it is time to pursue a new deal; a deal that puts young people’s health, education and employment at the centre. This is the only way to harness the demographic dividend that some African countries like Tunisia are feared to have missed out. The deliberate investments in young people undertaken by the Asian Tigers and the Celtic Tiger are estimated to have contributed between 25-33% to the drastic socio-economic transformation of these countries. This is the profit that Africa stands to reap by investing in its young people. The cost of action is undisputedly lesser than the cost of inaction.
It is time to act now; it is time for a new deal that harnesses the potential of the young people of Africa. This deal can be delivered.