Let’s give young people a voice to achieve the Africa we want

The Africa of tomorrow will be made up of the dreams of today’s children. What do they want? What sources of inspiration could public policies draw from their ideas? The essay contest on “The Africa We Want”, launched this year by the NEPAD agency, aims precisely to tap into this source of creative energy. Young Africans have until 28 February to write their ideas and formulate their proposals, which should make it possible to have a positive impact on societies, in line with the imperative for transformation set out in the African Union’s Agenda 2063. The winners will be announced at a ceremony in April in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The rise of African youth, as we know, provides grounds for concern in both the North and the South. The number of 15-24 year olds will increase from 327 to 531 million between 2010 and 2065, according to the UN projections. This figure alone represents both a promise and challenges. Europe fears major waves of migration from the continent. For their part, African leaders are well aware that the vast majority of young people simply dream of a decent life at home. Their massive entry into the labour market therefore makes development and access to employment more urgent than ever. If Africa wants to benefit from its demographic dividend, consulting its youth is an essential first step.

Already, the 15-25 age group is becoming increasingly vocal, and not only in the citizens’ movements that are spreading across the continent. A few examples, chosen from thousands of others, attest to this. Activist Chris Chukwu is fighting corruption in Nigeria as part of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) network. Aminata Namasia Bazego, 25, has just entered the Parliament of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where she is the youngest member of parliament. Arthur Zang, a Cameroonian engineer, invented the Cardiopad in 2014, at the age of 24. This touch pad for medical use has been talked about all over the world. It allows cardiologists, too few in Cameroon, to follow their patients from a distance.

Ancillar Mangena, a Zimbabwean journalist, has already won many awards even though she is less than thirty. For Forbes Africa magazine, she identified the most dynamic Africans under 30 years of age in the business, technology and arts sectors. The result of her survey is a list of 90 role models, success stories that the journalist describes as the “billionaires of tomorrow”. It is to initiate and sustain such virtuous cycles that we must immediately transform attitudes about our youth. Because young people are still too often considered as “little ones” without a voice. The time has come to listen to them. Because the current, rapid changes are already dependent on their generation.

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