The environment of Africa holds a brighter future, dreams and promises for her teeming youths across the continent. But this potential greatness cannot be premised on freebies but is achievable by strategic planning, education, hard work, dedication and engagements.
Africa, no doubt, is endowed with a youthful population. Young people who are between the ages of 16 and 35 account for the majority but the United Nations in its latest report said by 2030, there is a tendency that Africa’s youth population would have risen by, at least, 42 per cent.
But over the years, the biggest challenge facing the youth of Africa is unemployment which has left many helpless, vulnerable and irresponsive to the affairs of their society.
To address the issue of unemployment and move further towards the attainment of the Africa Agenda 2063 then vigorous efforts must be put together for an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa driven by its citizens.
And such an engagement is critical for the future of the continent at this stage because the “future” we desire is here with us already.
In the proper perspective, youth engagement is the meaningful participation and sustained involvement of young individuals in innovative and developmental activities with a focus outside of themselves.
It also means involving young people in responsible, challenging, planning and decision-making actions that affect them and others to create positive social change.
With the continent seeking development on all fronts and the youths rising for change, it is time for Africa to engage the partnership of its young population because they possess the ideas, energy and innovations needed to change the story of the continent.
When this is done, the continent stands to gain from the commitment because the potential of the continent would be realised.
Some of the notable gains to be derived from such engagements are Responsibility – due to the ingenuity of the youths, engaging them actively empowers them to play vital roles in their personal development and that of their society which in turn helps to promote positive civic action.
Another gain is through active participation, the youths derive a sense of belonging and see themselves as active stakeholders in their communities and by so, their ability to work and think as part of a team is enhanced. Also, it boosts their self-esteem and brings about active political involvement which comes with some forms of social innovations for growth and development.
But recently, youth participation in government activities across the continent has been on the increase as the young ones are beginning to take the bulls by the horn and are striving to be the drivers of the change they desire.
It is in light of these that the engagements should be taken further across all sectors of the economy to ensure that maximum effect is derived from their demographic and ingenuity.
For maximum effect, youth engagement can be achieved through training and entrepreneurial skills – empowering and training youths on different skills that will be beneficial for the development of society is one major means of engaging them. Such training and empowerment which dwells on various aspects of life help to drive change across economies through innovation in goods and services that contribute to overall economic development.
Again, mentoring also comes in handy in engaging the youths. It has the power to accelerate self-development, career progression, and overall confidence.
It also plays an important role in helping youths become more aware of what to expect and how to overcome hurdles and skill gaps, and build their capacity to become better at jobs or running their businesses.
Besides, the act of mentoring tends to bring about increased productivity as well as leads to critical thinking for social and economic prospects.
One other way through which the young generation in Africa can be effectively engaged is through agricultural activities. The involvement of youth in agriculture is important as they are more energetic, productive and open to new ideas and advanced technologies which can grow the Agric sector.
Yet, engaging youths in agriculture can come in different ways to make the sector more attractive and some of the ways include, the use of information and communication technology, ICT, more funding to the sector, provision of incentives to make it more attractive for the young ones and inclusion of agric-related courses in schools to catch them young.
While this is not an exhaustive list of means of engaging youths for the development of their communities, it shows that programs that are developed alongside the youths are more likely to be effective at engaging the population and also have a greater impact.
In all, effective engagement with youths becomes a win-win for all parties involved while the society becomes an enviable one with the right-thinking young population who no longer dream about a tomorrow that seems elusive but works with the gift of time to make a meaningful impact.