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Changing the narrative about Africa's youth

“Nigerian [African] youngsters are lazy they want everything free”- Muhammad Buhari. President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

By: Samuel Asante Donkor

Africa has been plagued with political instability, institutional malaise, corruption, a vicious cycle of aid dependence and a most pertinent issue of youth unemployment. Africa has a young population.Half of the population is currently under the age of 18, and those in the age group 15–25 make up almost thirty percent of the population today. The youth are deemed as the instruments of mayhem used to perpetuate pre- and post-election violence, the youth of Africa gamble their lives, cross the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea to Europe for an enabling environment to nature and sustain many unfulfilled ambitions.This is the dominant narrative about Africa and its youth.

Narratives can wrought catastrophic consequences

Narratives are powerful. World attention was drawn to the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the need to bring the situation under control. After several concerted efforts to stem conflict over mineral resources in Kivu in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. These narratives focused primarily on the cause of violence, illegal exploitation of mineral resources.Efforts were to curb conflict and human right abuses; engender peace and democratic governance; reconstruction of state authority. Violence and sexual abuse against women and girls exacerbated albeit the numerous interventions because the disproportionate attention to sexual violence raised the status of sexual abuse as an effective bargaining tool for combatants. Narratives can wrought catastrophic consequences.

Teeming vibrant youth in Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda to mention a few, are doing amazing things. Their story must be told. This story must tell their side of the African story: Attacking stereotypes, collective efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change, bridging producer-consumer gaps to reduce food waste and food loss, use of drones to expand access to essential health care such as drugs and blood for transfusion, taking active leadership roles in governance, creating awareness against corruption and bad governance on various social media platforms, soliciting, collating and implementing ideas to make lives better, excelling in academia and sports, and challenging socio-cultural norms through art.

Ghana is a near microcosm of Africa. The youth in Ghana is engaged in all the above mentioned initiatives and more. Proliferation of media outfits in Ghana has brought the quality and professionalism of journalists and journalism into disrepute. The plethora of news churned daily with the accompanying social media presence makes it a tedious endeavor navigating to a portal that is dedicated to presenting the African story and the role the youth play. Organizations and outfits involved in the renaissance of Africa’s story have their own distinct mission it is striving to accomplish. This makes it efficient for the agency to accomplish it goals and meet it targets though this presents a fragmented landscape.

Conscious efforts must be made to carve a space for the narration of the shared African and the youth’s story. News coverage and space allocated to the youth and their initiatives in Ghana compete with news about politics, the economy, entertainment. These are relevant albeit laced with much sensationalism and the accuracy of facts is doubtful.

An appraisal of the economy, travel plans of the president, commissioning of projects, constructive criticism of policies by the opposition, intra-party power contestation, sponsorship and endorsement deals involving artists and sports personalities. News of this kind is important to the youth. They reveal policy preferences, foreign policy and international trade partners, nature and relevance of government initiated projects, public-private partnerships, deficiencies in programs, contestations of ideologies, priorities and economic orientations, the needs, aspirations and consumer markets of companies, patrons and audience of music and movie industries. But these are not easily discernible.

In conclusion, the youth is contributing immensely to the African success story.

A complete narrative. Narration of just Africa’s story and the role the youth play would not be holistic. Conscious effort ought to be made to supplement this narrative by incorporating government, non-governmental organizations, international organizations and their policies, programs and projects. In Ghana, there is the National Entrepreneurship and Innovative Plan by the Government of Ghana; the United Nations SDG Action Campaign collaborated with Civic Innovation Lab in Nigeria to get Nigeria’s best software skills to contribute to citizens’ engagement with SDG’s and bring the voices of Nigerians to the Government and the United Nations; the Mobile Telecommunication Network (MTN) app challenge launched to create an innovative digital project to solve societal problems7. These are laudable initiatives and their project timelines, modus operandi and benefits must be publicized for the youth to take part, learn and connect with like-minded persons and organizations.

In conclusion, the youth is contributing immensely to the African success story.

The youth can do more, if given the necessary incentives and help. Telling the story of the youth is one of the numerous ways to incentivize the youth. This will celebrate, share their successes and failures. Hardships and setbacks encountered and lessons learned. This will also showcase the talent, energy and dreams the youth harbor for Africa for President Muhammad Buhari and others to appreciate. This story will attest to the fact that the youth is prepared and ready to lead Africa now and tomorrow.

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