African Youth Transformation Platform launched

The Alliance for African Partnership, a consortium led by Michigan State University in the United States, has launched the African Youth Transformation Platform in collaboration with the Global Youth Advancement Network, with the aim of elevating youth voices, strengthening leadership qualities and expanding capacity-building opportunities on the continent.

The platform was launched during a virtual meeting, ‘Pathways to Resilience: African youth and Africa’s transformation’, and will also mobilise resources, create partnerships and facilitate and promote research collaboration within the Alliance for African Partnership (AAP) networks and beyond.

“We shall support grant-seeking initiatives and proposal writing, as well as strengthen knowledge sharing and media engagement and communication on African youth related issues,” said Felix Kwame Yeboah, an assistant professor of international development at Michigan State University (MSU) and one of the organisers of the AAP public dialogue series, which University World News has been covering as a series of special reports.

According to Dr Amy Jamison, an education, gender and research specialist at MSU and currently the co-director of the AAP, the main objective of the platform will be to transform the lives of African youth by providing them with an enabling environment to thrive through entrepreneurship skills and community-engaged scholarship.

“Towards this goal, the platform will advance solutions that recognise African youth are not just subjects of development, but actors,” said Jamison, during the launching of the platform on 9 June.

Youth empowerment

Highlighting problems affecting youth in Africa, Elizabeth Mwambulukutu, a fellow of the Young and Emerging Leaders Project and co-founder of Hapo Zamani za Kale reflected on issues such as poverty, conflict, inadequate education and skills, as well as a lack of quality work employment opportunities as some of the key challenges that have mired most young people aged 15 to 24 into social and economic vulnerabilities.

Hapo Zamani za Kale is an initiative to harness traditional and modern storytelling methods to enhance the African narrative and reposition the role of arts and culture in the development agenda.

In her address, ‘Youth and the Future of Africa’, Mwambulukutu said the starting point should be to give African youth confidence wherever they are, be it in rural areas or in urban settings, by encouraging them to identify themselves with the continent.

“In the context of the African Union’s vision of the ‘Africa We Want’, youth should be helped to build their capacities through credible education, job-skills enhancement and leadership empowerment,” said Mwambulukutu.

Borrowing from Chinua Achebe’s aphorism: ‘If you don’t like someone’s story, write your own,’ Mwambulukutu urged youth in Africa to amplify their voices in continental decision-making processes and broaden their world views without fear.

In her call to action, Mwambulukutu said the journey to youth empowerment in Africa should be starting quite early in life, whereby children should be steeped in African cultural values but not following culture blindly, as people create culture to serve their needs.

She stressed that African youth should be prepared to learn and to test new ideas that would not just enable them to meet their needs and aspirations but to effect real change in the communities.

Private sector too small

But Mwambulukutu argued that African youth are currently on the periphery of a development agenda, pointing out how most of them are driven into situations whereby they do not know what they want in life for lack of quality education and, more so, lack of livelihoods.

According to a briefing from the African Development Bank, ‘Jobs for Youth in Africa: Improve the quality of life for the people of Africa’, of the 420 million youth aged between 15 and 35 in Africa today, the majority are unemployed, have insecure jobs or are in casual employment.

In her presentation, entitled, ‘Strategic Partnerships for Youth Empowerment in Africa’, Zouera Youssoufou, the managing director of the Aliko Dangote Foundation, expressed concerns about how African youth in most countries across the continent are impacted by the lack of quality employment.

She argued that, if Africa were to realise its potential, governments on the continent should start creating an enabling environment for expansion of the private sector in order to create more jobs.

“In terms of global scale, Africa’s private sector is too small to be in a position to absorb most of the young people looking for jobs, a situation that has forced most of the African youth into self-employment,” said Youssoufou, who is also a former World Bank country manager for Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and São Tomé and Príncipe.

Still, in comparison with other continents, Africa’s youth, especially in countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, are not just less educated but also lack marketable skills.

According to a study from the African Development Bank, ‘Youth Jobs, Skill and Educational Mismatches in Africa’, about 60% of youth are under-educated, while another 28% are under-skilled.

The authors of the report, Dr Hanan Morsy, the director of the macroeconomic policy, forecasting and research department at the African Development Bank and his associate, Dr Adamon Mukasa, a senior research economist, noted that under-educated youth are less likely to search for jobs.

According to the two researchers, even if such youth were to get jobs, they might eventually develop an inferiority complex that could negatively affect their utility in the workplace.

Skilling pathways

Amid efforts to improve job opportunities, Youssoufou explained how the Aliko Dangote Foundation had been encouraging African countries to create pathways for skilling talented youth in specific fields in manufacturing industries and other allied sectors.

She cited the Aliko Dangote Foundation-VDMA Technical Training Programme, a partnership that is providing vocational training to talented youth in Nigeria. VDMA is the German acronym for the Frankfurt-based Mechanical Engineering Industry Association.

The flagship of the programme is a 30-month professional course at the Dangote Academy that admits high school graduates in the age bracket of 16-24 that combines Nigerian manufacturing needs with German expertise and technology know-how.

According to Youssoufou, seven other courses of between two and four weeks in mechanical and electrical engineering are also on offer.

In their efforts to launch the platform, members of the AAP think there should be various flexible routes for African youth to enter the job market.

Professor Richard Mkandawire, a rural development expert and the currently the Africa director of the AAP, noted that more should be done to empower the youth.

In addition to providing quality education and supporting capacities in skills-building, Mkandawire stressed that there should be a catalyst of new youth-oriented initiatives that should include leadership in local communities, accountability, building bridges and telling of success stories.

But, in order to succeed in the new push, the AAP should find out why many interventions to curb rampant youth unemployment in Africa have not been working.

This report was updated on 24 June.