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Africa’s youth are key to informing the debate on African migrations

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

Around 60% of Africa’s population is currently under 25. By 2100, Africa’s youth population could be equivalent to twice Europe’s total population. This prospect is a double-edged sword, bringing with it huge potential but if not harnessed this could turn into a major threat.

Africa’s success relies on its capacity to harness its youth’s potential. In the quest for a prosperous Africa, we must put an emphasis on meeting the needs and demands of the continent’s youth. Almost 16 million young Africans – the continent’s richest resource – are currently facing unemployment, with informal jobs being the default rather than the exception. To compound this picture further, the 2018 Ibrahim Index of African Governance finds that despite strong GDP growth over the last ten years, Africa has failed to generate economic opportunities for its booming youth population.

The mismatch between a growing youth population and a jobless growth in Africa is one of the drivers of African migrations. This lack of sustainable economic opportunity is culminating in muscle and brain drain, where Africans leave the continent in search of better opportunities elsewhere. It is therefore imperative that we shine a spotlight on African migration dynamics, with the continent’s youth at the forefront of discussions on how to ensure Africa’s migrations are managed sustainably for the prosperity of the continent’s future.

During the Ibrahim Governance Forum, taking place in Abidjan on 5-7 April, the Foundation will hold the Ibrahim Forum which will be devoted to the topic of African migrations and its linkages to youth, jobs and mobility. So will the Now Generation Forum, convening African emerging leaders and young professionals to gather their perspectives and recommendations.

In 2018, I spoke directly to young people during the inaugural Next Generation Forum, urging them to lead the way in implementing change in the continent and emphasising that it is in their hands to change Africa. I saw first-hand that in many cases young Africans are acting on their desire to move the continent forward and this should be supported by us all. In fact, the group rebranded themselves as the ‘now generation’, reflecting their demands of and role in African society in the present and not only the future. This group – alongside those involved in Ibrahim Leadership Fellowship and other programmes – are engaged in Africa’s future.

I am glad to be hosting the second edition of the Now Generation Forum. This unique set up provides an exclusive space for young people to dialogue with each other and have the opportunity to have inter-generational exchanges, allowing us as a collective to keep our finger on the pulse of the continent through a deeper understanding of issues that will lead to the transformation of the continent. Outcomes from this forum will be shared the following day at the Ibrahim Forum by youth representatives who will serve as ‘challengers’ by sitting as panellists in each of the sessions:

  • Session 1: Setting the picture right on African migrations
  • Session 2: The African youth bulge confronted by a jobless growth
  • Session 3: The way forward: bolstering mobility, updating skills, sharing responsibilities

Failing to heed the needs and expectations of our youth  will come at a high price for the prosperity of the continent, its governance and the ability to retain and upskill this core constituency. Perception data show that more than 40.0% young Africans consider their current living situation to be very or fairly bad, and we know that there is a widening gap between education and employers’ requests.

As a Mo Ibrahim Foundation Board member, and as the current head of the Ibrahim Leadership Fellowship Program, I am looking forward to the much needed discussion on this key issue of African migrations. Fostering youth leadership primarily requires creating a space for the youth to live up to their full potential and this is what we’ve set out to do at the upcoming Ibrahim Governance Weekend.

The Foundation will hold its flagship annual event, the Ibrahim Governance Weekend (IGW) from 5-7 April 2019, in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

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