Young people make up a significant proportion of Ghana’s population, with approximately 60% of the population under the age of 25 and 35% between the ages of 15 and 35 (according to the 2010 Population and Housing Census). Youth are a unique group often seen as one of the most vulnerable groups within the Ghanaian social fabric, and at the same time seen as the greatest source of hope for the nation’s future. Mobilizing the creativity and passion of young people and recognizing the unique perspective of young people on their current and future needs have become national and international priorities.
Again, youth participation in the governance of our country is a basic human right enshrined in the 1992 Republican Constitution of Ghana, the African Youth Charter, the African Union Agenda 2063, the Global Goals 2030 and many other treaties and conventions that Ghana has duly ratified. This can only be meaningfully achieved through a coherent and widely accepted strategy in line with national and international youth conventions and protocols on development. Ghana’s efforts to harness the demographic dividend require the implementation of effective, sustainable and complementary youth development interventions strategically designed to position young people to develop their full potential and contribute to national and global development. More so, this is especially critical, as we complete the first half of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the current circumstances where the coronavirus pandemic is wreaking havoc on countries and humanity as a whole.
With the adoption of Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, world leaders and global actors have demonstrated the utmost dedication to achieve 17 ambitious sustainable development goals to ensure the sustainable development of people and the planet and prosperity. The 2030 Agenda recognizes young people as an essential stakeholder and seeks to address the current challenges facing young people around the world. Supported by the fundamental principle of leave no one behind, the Global Goals 2030 task leaders at all levels to provide the necessary safe spaces where young people and others can enjoy the full realization of their rights and skills. This is further emphasized in the United Nations Youth Strategy (Youth 2030) which envisions a world that recognizes the agency, resilience and positive contributions of young people as agents of change and calls for the engagement and participation of young people in the implementation, review and follow-up of the 2030 Agenda and other relevant global agendas and frameworks.
The difficult issues
According to statistics, the current generation of young people is the largest the world has ever seen. One in three people alive today is under the age of thirty and around ninety percent (90%) of young people live in developing countries, mainly in Asia and Africa, giving rise to a youth bulge” as young people form a larger group and growing proportion of the population. This represents a challenge as well as an opportunity for governments in formulating their development policies. The situation in Ghana is no different. About 60% of our current population constitutes people belonging to the youth bracket. The youthfulness of Ghana’s population could have a negative impact when young people are not well equipped with the necessary skills to be remunerated and empowered to contribute to national development.
Undeniably, the challenges facing Ghana’s burgeoning youthful population are myriad and diverse, including but not limited to: unemployment, health and welfare, insufficient access to quality education, poverty, crime, increased exposure to risky lifestyles and behaviors, violence and conflict, and low civic and political participation (Overview of Youth Development in Ghana, 2021, by Commonwealth Secretariat). The above issues differ among groups based on their gender, education level, health status, geographic location, and sometimes ethnicity, among others. However, the size of the youthful population, energy, drive, enthusiasm, innovation and dynamism of the Ghanaian youth are assets that need to be harnessed for sustainable development with tailored policies that adequately respond. the debilitating challenges they face.
Despite bold attempts by the government to overcome these challenges such as the establishment of the Youth Employment Agency, the National Entrepreneurship and Innovation Programme, the enhanced mandate of the Ghana Enterprise Agency, You- Start as well as the Nation Builders Corps and the Free Senior In secondary education, there is a need for a well-developed, comprehensive and effective youth development policy to address the issues facing this large and growing segment of the Ghanaian population.
It is encouraging that the government has decided to introduce the You-Start program which will invest in the entrepreneurial talents of young people and in the formation of a skilled population as a strategy to tackle the growing problem of youth unemployment. Over the years, the lack of bold investments in youth, such as the You-Start initiative, is what has exposed us to the current dire state where development gains seem to have reversed. The right investments in youth will empower them to make choices that are good for themselves, their communities and also for the world.
In response to the youth bulge, there should be practical policy initiatives aimed at addressing the ongoing challenges young people face. We have the opportunity to fully develop the potential of our young people so that they can contribute effectively to the global development agenda. This belief can only be realized if there is a commitment from leaders to prioritize youth development and to empower and ground young people to become strong and responsible leaders and also serve as an asset. for development on the world stage.
To be continued…
Author: Muhammad Alhassan Yakubu ([email protected])
The writer is the executive director of the Center for Social Action and Development (CENSAD) and Key Member of the Skills Development Committee (SDC) of Junior Chamber International, JCI, headquartered in Chesterfield in St. Louis, Missouri, USA.