Africa urged to invest in its youth

By  Timo Shihepo

Windhoek – Namibia’s Deputy Prime Minister, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah has called on Africa to invest in the youth if the continent is to improve its economy.

According to the 2015 UN World Population Prospect report, Africa’s population reached 1.2 billion in 2015 and is projected to grow rapidly, reaching 1.7 billion in 2030 and more than double by 2050, to 2.5 billion and 3 billion in 2063.

More remarkable is the fact that about 46 percent of the 1.3 billion increase in Africa’s labour force over the period 2015-2063 will be young people aged between 15 and 34 years.

Nandi-Ndaitwah said undeniably, the youth is the future and hence there is a need to invest in them. She added that at the same time, it must be accepted that the youth are an important asset that Africa has and must be invested on if the Africa economy can be under the control of Africans for Sustainable Development to be realised.

She said one way to do this is to form more public private partnerships on the African continent to increase the levels of socio-economic development, especially of the youth.

Socio-economic development is the relationship between economic activity and social life.

Speaking at the Theo-Ben Gurirab Lecture last week, Nandi-Ndaitwah said public-private partnerships will bring about change in many areas that would improve the standard of living, especially for the youth.

Nandi-Ndaitwah said public-private partnerships can be useful in developing the youth on the continent.

“Given Africa’s demographic structure with a highly youthful population, the significant contribution of the young people to the continent’s socio-economic development cannot be overemphasized,” said Nandi-Ndaitwah.

She added that harnessing the demographic dividends of the youth, therefore, presents a strategic opportunity for Africa not only to realize the goals and aspirations of Agenda 2063, but also to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It equally presents a good opportunity to build the resilience of young people in addressing the root causes of many of the key social and economic challenges facing our continent.

Nandi-Ndaitwah also expressed her concern due to the fact that in many African countries, the integration of formal and non-formal learning in a comprehensive lifelong learning policy is still far from being a reality.

“Non-formal education and traditional knowledge have an important role to play in responding to youth unemployment, raising the visibility of skills acquired outside the formal education system and fostering complementarities between non-formal and formal learning,” she said.

Africa has struggled to create an environment that would retain the African skills in the continent. It has been documented that Africa may appear to lack skilled labour force. The World Bank study has reported that some 70,000 highly qualified African scholars and experts leave the continent every year to work abroad mostly in developing countries.

Nandi-Ndaitwah said it is the most critical means every nation has to develop human resources and impart appropriate knowledge, competencies, skills, innovation and creativity required for sustained growth of the economy.

“Against that background, Africa has to invest in education for her to become competitive in the world economy. Education is also the means by which Africa can inculcate a culture of peace, tolerance, gender equality and positive African values.”

She added that for Africa to succeed in its transformational agenda, African countries need to harmonise their national education policies and strategies with the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (2016-2025) and the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA-2024), as part of the domestication of AU Agenda 2063.

“Vocational training should, therefore ,be positioned as a pathway to a professional career that can be embraced by young people and position Africa to amass the wealth of technical skills that will be required to achieve our developmental aspirations,” she said.

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