by Tam’sanqa Mhepoh | Nust-ZW
ISSA Hayatou’s ouster from the position of CAF (Confederation of African Football) president in March 2017 is by far the best development that occurred on the continent this year. At age 70, Hayatou had been president of the African football governing body for 29 years.
How this happened is what must inspire all youth for Africa to realise the demographic dividend in the near future.
It only took thirst for change and collective responsibility to vote out the graying chief in favour of a much younger leader.
2016 research showed that civic action results in political empowerment. As such, political engagement and civic participation are activities that young people need to get acquainted with today, in order to be productive leaders tomorrow.
After all, young people’s apathy and political disaffection could be the reason why Africa has a reputation of aging and long serving presidents in sports, politics and business.
Ten of the oldest presidents in Africa have a mean age of 78 compared to 52 for the top ten most developed countries in the world.
The absence of younger of people in leadership positions is potentially disastrous.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) projected that by 2070, Africa will have over 1 billion working age youth and fewer dependents (children and the elderly).
As a result, it is likely that there will be an increase in GDP and per capita income, in short – a demographic dividend.
According to the UNFPA, the demographic dividend refers to economic growth resulting from an increase in the workforce and decline in the non-working population.
In order to sustain this economic growth, Mabingué Ngom, Regional Director for the UNFPA West and Central Africa, suggested that good policies will have to be put in place to manage it.
However, with this rate of ignorance and disengagement in the youth today, I doubt we will be competent enough to lead and let alone participate in the formulation of policies that will spur the continent to greatness.
Frankly speaking, African youths today do not appreciate their ability to dictate the pace and direction of their own destinies. That needs to change.
A culture of active participation and civic engagement in the youth is the only means by which the African Union’s Agenda 2063, of harnessing the demographic dividend, will succeed.
Docility, oblivion and ignorance will only ensure that the youth carry today’s poverty, inequality and corruption into the future.
Young people should not wait to be empowered by today’s aging political elite who are out of touch with their needs.
Lack of leadership opportunities and employment in countries such as Zimbabwe, Congo and Gabon is clear evidence to that. Unemployment rates among the youth in these countries are over 35 percent according to the International Labour Organisation.
Instead, the youth should employ their creativity and energy to engage the graying lot to deliver good governance and be more accountable.
The success scored by some African youth in entrepreneurship and leadership is proof that young people are ready and able to lead.
Consequently young people’s finesse in entrepreneurship and leadership has given them global attention such as listings on international media and fellowships abroad.
The United States sponsored Mandela Washington Fellowship is one such initiative that has nurtured emerging leaders such as Nigeria’s Ambassador Sunday Chibuzo-Okereke.
Okereke is an advocate of the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill that seeks to reduce the age qualification for office of the President in Nigeria from 40 to 30 years.
Furthermore, the Forbes Africa ’30 under 30′ list recognises youngsters below the age of 30 that have established enterprises set to reignite economies across the continent.
Takunda Chigonzoh, 24, from Zimbabwe, is one such youth celebrated by Forbes for breaking barriers to internet access in his country.
Through several technology startups under his Tech-Village brand, Chigonzoh strives to make the internet accessible for underprivileged youngsters.
Such ambitious initiatives prove that young people have the capacity to take over in all sectors of the economy.
Only a paradigm shift in attitude, from apathy to pro-activity, will make for a fruitful demographic transition in the not so distant future.
On the occasion of International Youth Day in 2016, Afrobarometer, a pan- African, non-partisan research that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance and other related issues on the continent published a report showing that about half of young Africans, ages 18 -35, had no interest in elections, community meetings, rallies, public affairs and protests.
This apathy in the youth is one that is threatening to plunge the continent into a continuum of ‘darkness’.