The African youth population that won’t be denied

Why Africa’s youth population should not be taken for granted

Population figures of the African continent sit at approximately 1.3 billion today, a significantly huge leap from approximately 150 million in 1930, and by 2050 there could be over 2.5 billion people occupying the land mass that is Africa. More interestingly, the continent is having to come to terms with a clearly younger population, as reports show that 41% of the African population is under the age of 15. This is probably due to certain factors, such as the lack of family planning in many African countries, the growth in population which occurs on excess of 2% every year, and the life expectancy which averages the age of 52 across the continent.

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The voting age in most African countries is set at 18. However, it needs to be said that many youths feel like they don’t have much of a say when it comes to who takes power and who assumes political offices: Togo recently shut down its nationwide internet services over criticism of President Faure Gnassingbe Eyadema’s  plan to rule for two more terms, even though he has been in power since 2005.

There is also the not-so-small matter of old politicians holding on to power for as long as they can, manipulating legislations to enable them stay in office for virtually a lifetime: Paul Biya has led Cameroon since 1982, and Algeria’s Abdelaziz Bouteflika had four terms at the helm of affairs.

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With many youths across the continent haunted by unemployment, sub-standard education, poor health facilities and human rights violations, the solace for many is to start up conversations on social media, while those who have the means take steps to migrate to other developed nations. There are also more than a few cases of young people defying the odds, by way of establishing businesses, selflessly setting up initiatives to encourage political participation, and using the internet as a vehicle for advocacy.

Either way, something has to give and whether the old guard admits it or not, one generation will soon have to give way for another. African youths may have started on the back foot, owing to the failure of previous generations to cater to them, but they are coming, and they are taking no prisoners.

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