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Sierra Leone News: African Decentralization Day 2017: Creating Opportunities for Our Youth

“The persistence of conflicts and wars on the continent continues to fuel uncertainty for the resolve of African leaders to strive and propose a better life for the youth and future generations,” said the United Cities and Local Government (UCLG) Africa.
The theme of the African Union Decentralization Day celebrated, 10 August 2017, was “Youth Participation”. According to the US Census Bureau in 2010, 63% of the Africa’s overall population was below the age of 25. The average age of the African population is 19.
That’s a major concern considering Africa has the worst schooling outcomes in the world with 51% out of school in the age group of 6 to 14 years. This translates into the emergence of the phenomenon of “Street Children” in African Cities where more and more children and young people are homeless and live and sleep in the streets.
In Sub-Saharan Africa according to ILO, 3 in 5 of the unemployed are youth, and 72% of the youth population live with less than $2 a day. In addition, 10 to 12 million young people join the labour market each year, adding year in year out to the African working poor.
The African Union has declared 2009-2018 “the African Youth Decade”, but the young people in Africa do not have any real taste of the implementation of this political declaration. The persistence of conflicts and wars on the continent continues to fuel uncertainty for the resolve of African leaders to strive and propose a better life for the youth and future generations, not to mention all the adverse decisions around youth due to poor governance on the continent.
For sure there is no quick fix for the youth situation and the unemployment boom, but the reality is that more and more young people in Africa are losing hope of having any future on the continent. Hence, their despair and struggle to find a better life out of the continent, taking incredible risks to try and cross the Mediterranean Sea at the expense of their own lives.
The first piece of good news is that Africa represents over 30% of the world’s youth population. Africa is the youngest continent in the world: 21% of the 1.2 billion people on the continent are between 15 and 24 years old, whereas 42% are less than 15 years old. In the next 20 years, Africa has the opportunity to benefit from a “demographic dividend” where there will be a large workforce supporting fewer children and the elderly, lowering the dependency burden and freeing up resources for development and the improvement of productivity. There are good reasons to hope that educational efforts can yield results in terms of a better quality and skilled workforce. In that sense, the youth should be considered as the key and unique player for the economic and social structural transformation of Africa. They are the energy and creativity of the future. That is where Africa’s renewal and renaissance will come from.
The second piece of good news is the determination of young people on the continent to take control of their own lives, creating their own jobs in the popular economy, investing in the tech- economy by adapting new technology’s to fit the reality and economic context of Africa.
To transform this emerging potential into capabilities with effective scale-up and implementation on the ground, there needs to be a drastic transformation in the way African societies consider youth participation? It takes affirmative action to create an enabling and conducive environment for youth participation in society; and local governments should be at the forefront of this endeavour.
Friday August 11, 2016.

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