Africa has the highest youth population in the world. More than 200 million- of the 1.2 billion people in Africa are aged between 15 and 24, and millions of these young people wish to join the labour market every year (Ighobor, 2013, p. 10). Some believe that this figure will double in the next two decades. The question is whether these young people have enough of the right skills to be successful as individuals, support the growth of their respective economies and play a competitive role in a globalised world. Currently youth unemployment is rife throughout Africa. In fact, these young people are often amongst the poorest of the poor. Not only is it an absolute tragedy to lose the economic benefit of all the potential and talent the youth could provide, but we also know that being hungry, without hope and restless, is fertile ground for unrest (Ighobor, 2013, p. 10).
We have to acknowledge that there are incredible efforts from various governments but specifically also from the private sector, international funders, academic institutions, NGO’s and individuals, to make a difference in the lives of young people. There are many very inspiring stories of the difference people have made, and still make to the lives of the youth in Africa. The future of those who benefit from these initiatives is often vastly different to what it would have been and, to their credit we often see them re-investing their energy and skills in developing others.
There are however still too many young people in Africa who struggle to gain access to quality education, skills development- and employment opportunities. Governments specifically have an immensely important role to play in ensuring that only the very best teachers are employed, schools are functional and safe, and that the learning material is consistently of the highest standard. This is however difficult to do when the economy is failing and budget allocations are not carefully considered. Governments cannot solely shoulder this responsibility.
We know there is a thirst for knowledge amongst our young people and there are brilliant examples of young achievers who, against all odds, develop their talent and become successful as professionals, artisans or entrepreneurs. Global innovation and disruptive technologies will also progressively become the method of choice for those who are self-driven and want to become educated or employed. This will however only be a choice available to those who have access to the internet and understand technology - another responsibility of both the private and public sectors. It is clear that the world of work is fast becoming automated and if we do not fast track our young talent to develop critical skills, also related to technology, we will see this as another reason for even higher unemployment (Ford, 2008) and social instability.
JvR, like so many others, is committed to making a difference to youth development in as much as it is possible. We have invited Prof Elias Mpofu to present on his vast knowledge of education in Africa at our People Development in Africa Conference from 7 - 10 May 2017, in the Kruger National Park. We are also structuring the Educational focus area of the conference to include research, case studies, practical interventions, learnings and initiatives from others who take youth development very seriously. We regard this as an opportunity to share, learn and participate in such a manner that we all, together, can make a real difference!
References Ford, Martin. (2015). The rise of the robots – Technology and the threat of mass unemployment. UK: Clays Ltd Ighobor, Kingsley. (2013). Africa’s youth: a “ticking time bomb” or an opportunity? Africa Renewal, May 2013, p. 10. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/may-2013/africa%E2%80%99s-youth-%E2%80%9Cticking-time-bomb%E2%80%9D-or-opportunity Marishane, Ludwick. (2012). A bath without water. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/ludwick_marishane_a_bath_without_water?language=en