Pretoria — The African continent needs to make the most of its youthful population by providing them with the education and skills they need to compete on the global stage, says Deputy Minister in the Presidency, Buti Manamela.
"The demographic dividend in Africa demands that we must align our policies towards improving and investing in our youth, and we should not relent in this.
"Our societies should believe that it is a worthy cause to invest in our young population, from Early Childhood Development, right through to the various educational paths. The future rests with them," the Deputy Minister said.
He was speaking at the roundtable on 'Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth', which recently took place in Lilongwe, Malawi. The event coincided with the commemoration of Youth Month in South Africa. It was hosted by the South African High Commission in Malawi.
About 200 million people are aged between 15 and 24 in Africa, making it the continent with the youngest population in the world. The current trend indicates that this figure will double by 2045, according to the African Economic Outlook report prepared by experts from the African Development Bank (AfDB), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
However, the majority of these young people are not working, an issue which analysts have described as a ticking time bomb if not addressed urgently.
Deputy Minister Manamela believes that these issues can be addressed through education and skills development.
"Scientific evidence tells us that those with lower levels of education do not stand better chances of netting employment. Young people continue to be affected the most by the triple scourge of unemployment, inequality and poverty," he said.
As such, governments need to implement policies that are aimed at reversing the current trends, with a great sense of urgency.
Deputy Minister Manamela said the post-2015 Development Agenda dictates that no-one must be left behind.
"Our continent exists within the developing space in the milieu of the global scheme of development... Only those who can adapt fast enough can sustain their survival."
Africa's Agenda 2063 and South Africa's National Development Plan: Vision 2030 enjoin the continent and South Africa to work towards creating conditions that are conducive for youth to thrive. This, Deputy Minister Manamela said, means embracing all the developments in the international environment so that African youth can stand shoulder to shoulder with their peers.
"The advent of the fourth industrial revolution continues to trust technology on our path. We can only succeed if we work together. There is an African saying that goes: only those who have their calabashes ready will scoop water when the downpour comes. Let us stay ready. Failure is not an option."
Authors: All Africa