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Africa: youth and politics

Africa has the youngest population in the world. The median age of the continent is 19.7 years. But the continent is not only vastly young, its young population is growing fast. By 2055, According to the African Economic Outlook, the number of young people living on the continent will reach an incredible 255 million. But despite this massive numerical advantage, youth continue to face grueling realities. These realities range from being mindfully excluded, politically, socially, and economically. According to the African Development Bank, youth accounts for 60% of Africa’s unemployed, and joblessness stands out as one of the main reasons young people get into the streets or at ballot stations to press for a change of government. But unemployment is not the only problem facing young people, political exclusion is also firmly resting on the neck of the perennially subjugated demography. With the average age of African leaders being 62, older folks have carefully devised the means to structurally keep young people away from the contours of power. And to worsen matters, public education systems are failing to provide a clear path toward upward mobility for young people –potentially leading to extremism and criminality.

By every standard of measure, young people are facing a stagnant challenge but they are reacting to this challenge in different ways. Some have joined political parties hoping that they can ingratiate themselves with the implicit gerontocracy in order to be included in decision-making. Others are activists, holding the belief that, by venting their rage against the system, it would bulge to their demands. Many others have joined informal employment or resigned themselves to the horrors of their circumstance, making a solid, obstinate embrace of drug and crime.

But there are exceptions – young people who are trailblazing and achieving pioneering endeavors. They are striving to ensure that they are included in every sector and reinforcing youth policies both at the national and local levels. Moreover, they care less about personal circumstances or economic limitations, they are focused on minting their own victories, little triumphs, and a story they can bask in.

Many of these people – these exceptional young people – emerged from the Young Political Leadership School Africa.

Founded in 2016 by Naymote Partners for Democratic Development, the program was forged to deliver on a single objective: to end generational inequality thereby grooming a new generation of character-driven political leaders that would be accountable, responsive and accessible to the needs and interests of citizens’ and help to shape the future of their respective countries in the positive direction. The program operates by creating a space for mentorship between youth and accomplished professionals so that they can learn from educated opinion and well experienced leaders in development, youth engagement, and civil society.

There is still a lot of roads to cover in terms of reaching the ultimate accomplishment but the program has still inspired a number of uplifting stories of young people who have achieved greatness despite the continent’s restraining environment. By estimate, 71% of YPLS – Africa graduates are political pioneers, leaders of successful startups, prominent youth leaders and intellectual figures across Africa.

These graduates are the ones who are actively engage into advocacy and civic engagements for better governance, will usually go into protests, to pressure the state to end sexual violence or increase funds for education, end socio-political corruption and promote demand for good governance. They are the ones who, in between the poles of partisan political delinquencies and love for country, they would choose the latter.

They are active in civil society, politics, and pop culture, holding leaders accountable and ringing alarm over important issues – against incredible odds, these young people are showing that they can change their country and dynamics of politics.

Their courage is providing light into where the continent is headed and the possibilities in its wake. There are millions of youths in Africa who have given on their pursuit of a better life but graduates of the YPLS are still pushing against their circumstances and using their courage to inspire collective action.

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