Young Africans are increasingly attaining secondary school education, but still face high levels of unemployment, according to a study released by Afrobarometer and the Mastercard Foundation.
The study, which surveyed 36 African countries in 2021/2022, found that 66% of young Africans have attained secondary school education, up from 58% in 2015/2016. However, the unemployment rate for young Africans (ages 15-35) remains high, at 19%.
The study also found that young Africans are more dissatisfied with democracy than their elders, and are more open to military intervention in case of abuse of power.
Governments given low marks for job creation
The study found that young Africans are most concerned about unemployment and that they give their governments low marks for their efforts to create jobs. Only two countries, Zambia and Seychelles, have majorities approving of their governments’ performance on job creation.
Young Africans more open to military intervention
The study also found that young Africans are more open to military intervention than their elders. Close to six in 10 Africans under 36 years old (56%) are willing to tolerate military intervention if elected leaders abuse power, compared to 46% of those over 55 years old.
Youth less politically engaged
Despite their challenges, young Africans are less politically engaged than their elders. The study found that young Africans are less likely to vote in national elections, attend community meetings, or join others to raise issues.
Foundation committed to empowering youth
Ayobami Ojebode, director of research systems strengthening and knowledge mobilization at the Mastercard Foundation, said the foundation is committed to empowering African youth through informed strategies and initiatives.
“We do not pretend to know what the youth’s most important problems are, or their views on the economic conditions of their country or of themselves,” Ojebode said in his welcoming remarks. “That is why we have opened up channels that allow us to simply listen to young people. In each of our countries of operation, we have youth advisory groups who work with our country teams.”
The webinar was part of the “Exploring youth issues and priorities and strengthening youth capacities across Africa” partnership between Afrobarometer and the Mastercard Foundation. The partnership supports Afrobarometer in producing and widely disseminating data on the priorities and aspirations of African youth.
Experts call for action
Several experts who spoke at the webinar called for action to address the challenges facing young Africans.
Dedo Doku, DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) Leadership for Africa Scholar, said young Africans are the most critical stakeholders in any African economic agenda. He called for governments to recognize the power of young people and to support their efforts to mobilize and demand change.
Farida Bemba Nabourema, executive director of the Togolese Civil League, said young people in many parts of Africa are left to fend for themselves. She called for governments to provide basic services and to create jobs for young people.
Louise Kanza, international development consultant, said Africa’s challenges are rooted in its lack of togetherness and pan-Africanism. She called for Africans to unite and work together to build a better future for the continent.
Mandipa Ndlovu, governance researcher and development policy analyst said the youth need to be reassured that their leaders are working for them and not against them. She called for governments to be more transparent and accountable to the people.
Africa has the youngest population in the world, with more than 400 million individuals aged between 15 and 35 years. According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), one-third are unemployed and discouraged, another third are vulnerably employed, and only one in six are in wage employment.