Empowering the African Youth through Education
According to the United Nations, one in ten children around the world currently live in war-torn areas, with close to 25 million currently out of school. The gigantic strides and landmarks in technology throughout the world (particularly in the area of artificial intelligence) also compound the challenges of the labor market that frustrate the youth – making the terrain very unfamiliar for the uneducated.
If our young people are unemployed and out of schools, they will be unable to contribute to decision-making processes, isolating the youth politically and civically even more. Because education virtually touches everything affecting our lives and societies, there is a global consensus to advance Goal 4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly “ensure inclusive, equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. On the other hand, the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063 aims to develop Africa’s human and social capital through education and a skills revolution reinforced by science, technology and innovation.
Africa is home to about 420 million young people aged 15 to 35 and by 2063, they are expected to comprise approximately 46% of Africa’s labor force. The AU has planned to offer opportunities to more than a million young people, including scholarships, onsite and virtual internships, apprenticeships, as well as developmental digital skill acquisition programs.
Joined by 500 youth from across Africa, the Chairperson of the AUC, H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat, launched the 1 Million by 2021 initiative in April 2019 at the 2nd Pan-African Youth Forum. Participants, including the private sector and development partners, pledged support for this initiative, co-created solutions to the challenges facing Education, Employment, Entrepreneurship, and Engagement.
We also advocate for the implementation of this initiative in AU member states with a gender lens because we cannot talk about education and employment for girls and young women without addressing Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), child marriage, gender-based violence, and menstruation, among other forms of violence and discrimination against women. Unfortunately girls go through a vicious cycle that hinders them from fulfilling their potential. When girls go through FGM, they are more likely to be forced into child marriage, drop out of school, and not become financially independent, preventing them from having a dignified life. Therefore, we have to center education and employment in Africa around dignity of our youth, especially young women and girls.
Africa is the most youthful continent in the world today, with 65% of its entire population below the age of 35. The time has come for bold and accelerated efforts towards achieving the AU Agenda 2063. This is crucial to ensuring a stable Africa – one that will be free of conflict and home to proud and educated citizens who are healthy and fully engaged in their countries’ development and governance. The future of education and work needs to be about curiosity and passion to explore knowledge, learning and purpose from completely different experiences; to focus on building a world that is collaborative and emotionally intelligent; and to accelerate human development. Our generation is excited about changing systems, creating disruptions and being changemakers. Thus, we can set the right intention and goal to use new technologies to make Africa and the world a better place, our lives more efficient, and our impact on the environment lower.
It is only by working together and inspiring one another that we will build “the Africa we want”. Together, we can connect millions of youth with their dream opportunities by 2021.