December 13, 2020/ 7.00AM / Ayomide Oguntoye for WebTV/Header Image
The Governor of Ekiti State His Excellency, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) has highlighted ways in which Africa could benefit from its youth demography.
Giving the keynote address at the maiden Harvard Kennedy School Alumni Association Africa Policy Dialogue which discussed "Harnessing Africa's Demographic Dividend for Peace, Security, and Productivity Through Investments In Youth", Fayemi listed the following points that should be considered in harnessing Africa's youth demography for development and transformation of the continent:a. Create a functional education system
Governor Fayemi said Africa has continued to see a geometric population increase in the last 50 years. For instance, in 1960 the total continental population was estimated at 200 million people, but according to the United Nations on December 8, 2020, the total population of Africa was 1,354,376,737 people, representing about 17% of the world's total population.
With projections of increasing population growth in Africa, especially in Nigeria, he highlighted major problems as a youth bulge contending with rising unemployment. According to Fayemi, Africa's demography indicates a highly youthful population, unfortunately, 60% of the unemployed are represented in this demography.
He went further to say that statistic has shown that 70% of the workforce are 'working poor' i.e. a great number of people who have been working for decades still see themselves as underemployed, due to poor pay, lack of job satisfaction, or wrong job placement.
Despite the surge in unemployment, the Governor noted that many of the youths milling into urban centers are without employable skills and knowledge and it is no wonder that African was plagued by social problems such as drug abuse, high crime rate, adolescent pregnancy, banditry, kidnapping, cybercrime, ethnic militancy, internet fraud amongst other emerging issues.
Regardless of this, Governor Fayemi said that there was high illiteracy, presenting a varied situation from one region to another, but the countries with the highest level of illiteracy remain in Africa, despite the 9 years of basic education which is universally mandatory.
Another demographic issue stated, is gender inequality. The Governor noted that despite the notable progress in most African countries in addressing issues around gender inequality, the challenge is such that, with half of the population as females with a low representation in key decision-making organs of the society, women continue to face discrimination that has interfered with the kind of benefits that the population should gain from.
He posed the question "Is a huge population a curse or a blessing?" noting that it could be beneficial and injurious, and the answer is dependent on the way the surplus-labour is used.
Mr. Frank Nweke, President, Harvard Kennedy School Alumni Association of Nigeria, in his opening remarks, stated that Africa had the youngest population in the world and according to the United Nations figures in 2015, 256 million youths aged between 15 and 24 had homes in Africa, representing almost 20% of the world's youth population.
He alluded to the fact that Africa was faced with the challenge of unabated population growth.
According to projections, he said that by 2030, the population of the youth demography in Africa would grow by 42%. He noted that this may be good for Africa, considering situations in other developing countries that have had to import manpower to meet their domestic needs and to optimize productivity in their economy, a situation actively encouraging migration around the world.
He further noted that the seeming demographic advantage in Africa can be said to be meaningless, given the rather suboptimal investment in education, skill development, and healthcare sector in Africa, which has contributed to the high level of illiteracy, unemployment, drug abuse, poverty, poor health status and low skills amongst African youths.
According to him these conditions have led several youths into frustration, anger, and insecurity across Africa and threatened the sovereignty of some nations in the continent. There has also been an increasingly high level of unemployment in Africa which has left several youths discouraged.
"The truth however is, that very little change can be made in an atmosphere of despondency filled with insecurity and lack of opportunities. Policymakers and citizens must therefore find the right policies to catalyze Africa's industrial and manufacturing sector to provide jobs and ignite the productive capacity of citizens" Frank Nweke said.
The President of the association called on all Alumni of Harvard University to use the tools and resources, skills, and network garnered to lead a better society.
The dialogue featured a panel session moderated by Mr. Olufemi Awoyemi, FCA, Chairman, Proshare, with other panelists, Mr. Jude Abaga (M.I) Performing Artiste & CEO, Tasck Creative Company, Uche Pedro, Founder/CEO Bellanaija, Maryam Bukar Hassan(Alhanislam) Poet, Motivational Speaker, & Entrepreneur joined Governor Kayode Fayemi as discussants.