The African Democracy Forum (ADF) joins the global community in celebrating International Youth Day 2017 held under the theme: Youth Building Peace. As is the case on the 12th of August each year, this auspicious day gives an opportunity to reflect on the journey that has been, celebrate the gains made as well as determine the future path to be taken regarding the status of youth in societies across the world.
The Global Youth Development Index estimates the world youth population to be at 1.8 billion worldwide. According to the 2016 World Youth Report on Civic Engagement and the Commonwealth’s Global Youth Development Index, more than half of the population in African countries such as Ghana, Tunisia, Gambia and Kenya are below the age of 30. These youth are also key participants in state and community affairs as witnessed in the recently held Rwandan and Kenyan elections whereby the percentage of registered youth voters was 45% and 51% respectively.
Youth unemployment and dissatisfaction with the ails of majority of societies including but not limited to corruption, marginalization, human rights violations and flouting of democratic principles have been attributed to the daunting levels of radicalization witnessed across the world by illegal groups such as terrorist factions and other criminal entities.
The reverse can be witnessed through collaborative efforts by all concerned stakeholders i.e. governments, public and private entities, civil society organisations and the citizenry at large. If efforts are geared towards effectively tapping into youth resources through investment, capacity building and the support of youth led initiatives the positive outcomes are boundless.
The enactment of the #NotTooYoungToRun Bill by legislators in Nigeria that reduced the age at which young people can contest in the governorship, legislative and presidential elections of the country is a step in the right direction. So too is the recent election of John Paul Mwirigi who at the age of 23 was elected a member of parliament in the Kenyan election. This is a great feat for the electoral process in Kenya and serves as a reminder and encouragement to all young people that it is possible to change the status quo to cater to the bulging and all important youth demographic.
The African Democracy Forum therefore remains committed to work with all stakeholders to ensure that youth in Africa are enabled and supported in order to occupy their rightful positions by actively contributing to the growth and development of their respective societies and the continent at large.