The African Leadership Gap and Youth Dividend


The youth of Africa face an unprecedented paradox: they will become an inconceivable source of social, economic and political wealth - otherwise known as the youth dividend -  for their countries, the continent and the world, while simultaneously grappling with immense domestic and international challenges.


According to research by the United Nation’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Africa is set to become home to an astonishing 42% of the world’s youth population by the year 2030.


The youth of Africa face an unprecedented paradox: they will become an inconceivable source of social, economic and political wealth - otherwise known as the youth dividend -  for their countries, the continent and the world, while simultaneously grappling with immense domestic and international challenges.


These challenges include growing political instability and social fractionalization, climate change, slowing economic growth and a widening skills gap.


Despite increasing uncertainty over the imminent phenomena of the African youth dividend,

it remains almost self-evident that there is an untapped opportunity for the cultivation of

youth leaders unlike the world has seen before. 


Some of the highest youth population growth rates on the continent are set to take place in

‘low-literacy’ countries (low literacy refers to a society in which a significant portion of the population is uneducated at a basic level). This poses a significant threat to the development of both young people and the countries in which they live.


Research by UNESCO on the importance of literacy shows that there exists a positive

correlation between educated (literate) populations and political participation, tolerance and

cultural awareness, the healthiness and longevity of populations as well as economic and

income growth.


It is critical that African governments drive and prioritize the kind of change that will provide individuals in this young Africa of the near future with a fighting chance to actualize their potential.

Education is a fundamental key to unlocking growth and development, and I would argue for as much investment and access to education as is fiscally sensible. I would also argue for investing in various forms of education, such as governments working to build a strong network of apolitical leaders that are both a source of innovation and drivers of change. 


There are countless examples on the continent and in its history of how political

malfeasance has torn down attempts at progressing the lives of Africans. We have seen the

power that influential leaders and groups have been able to exercise over the fate of

societies.


This usually takes place in the absence of a robust network of leaders

bolstered by a population capable of standing up against minority, ideologically-driven elements.


I’m a firm believer in the statement that “everything is about politics”. I can see how promoting a group of utopian leaders without political affiliation borders on idealism.


But we need to ask ourselves whether viewing leadership as inextricable from political affiliation has served us. I would go as far as saying that there exists a leadership gap, characterized by a lack of leaders that aim to get the job done regardless of political sentiments.


There are promising signs regarding the potential future of Africa's youth dividend.


Organizations and schools such as the African Leadership Academy, the newly-founded Apolitical Academy, The South African Institute of International Affairs, the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy and UNICEF among others are playing vital roles in the development of apolitical, non-partisan leaders capable of serving their countries.


There is a great incentive to dedicate greater resources into such leaders; the future of our countries, continent and world may be resting on it.


There’s no youth like the present, the time is now!




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