Claire Were is an AMI Media Competition shortlisted contributor from Kenya. Her piece We Are The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For: What Work Would Look Like For Young People In My Dream for Africa is her interpretation of "Why are we the ones we've been waiting for?"
“By the end of the century, almost half of the global population will be African. And by 2035 - less than 15 years from today - Africa will have the largest and youngest workforce in the world.
African youth have the unique opportunity to leverage this energy to drive prosperity and innovation in their communities and across the continent. With such a significant percentage of the global population coming from this part of the world, the African continent will join the world in defining where the twenty-first century will go.”
- AFRICAN LEADERSHIP GROUP
As it is in my country, universities have become very commercial and are churning out graduates at an alarming rate. These graduates are not only “half-baked” and leave not having the necessary skills to land gainful and meaningful employment; the job market cannot meet the demand. This is a result of economic policies that sustain growth but do not generate employment, as well as corruption.
In 2017, a United Nations Human Development report stated that one in five Kenyans in the age bracket 15 to 34 are unemployed. These rates are much higher than any other country in the region and have led to Kenya being referred to as “the jobless capital of East Africa” despite being the largest economy in the region. To set the scene further, according to ALX Launchpad, “The clock is ticking toward the day when Africa has the world's largest workforce of 1.1 billion - we have less than 6000 days.” This is potentially disastrous, but all is not lost.
Initiatives such as ALX, YALI and Africa Matters have risen to the occasion and taken up the mantle to unlock the massive potential of Africa’s youth. They do this by equipping young leaders with the relevant skills to not only get a job and thrive in the job market but also to think innovation and create those jobs/opportunities for others. I share in this dream for Africa.
For me, in an ideal Africa, young people would actively work towards making Africa great through social innovation and social entrepreneurship. I’ve come to realize that there is a lot of opportunity in adversity. Unfortunately, in Africa, in most cases, our “leaders” only seek to enrich themselves and, as a result, leave those that put their faith in them helpless. Because of this, even the simplest and most straightforward problems are left unsolved.
Being a believer in being the change I want to see, I dream of an Africa where young people stand up and take it upon themselves - using their skills, knowledge and experience - to design solutions to the problems in our communities. In this way, they would create work for themselves, reducing societal inequalities, thus having a positive impact on their communities, countries, and the big picture, the continent.
We do not have to reinvent the wheel. As they say, "there is nothing new under the sun". We just need to make it for Africans by Africans. The design thinking process that is used in social innovation is people-centred – it keeps the needs of the people you are designing for in mind eliminating a lot of the risk of rolling out a solution – something I feel is lacking in the development field. Also, the social entrepreneurship bit generates revenue, ensuring the sustainability of the solution, be it a product or service.
I believe there’s no better time than now for this to take shape than with the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which aims to create the largest free trade area in the world - here in Africa - as well as the digital revolution that is currently underway and making the world a global village. The possibilities are literally endless.
If this happens, what is soon to be the world’s largest workforce might just end up changing Africa’s narrative for the better.