- Youth are defined by the African Union as the population from 15 to 35 years of age.
- They account for over a third of Africa’s population and represent the continent’s future.
Africa Youth Day, November 1, is an opportunity to recognize youth as key agents for social change, economic growth, and sustainable development.
Youth are defined by the African Union as the population from 15 to 35 years of age.
They account for over a third of Africa’s population and represent the continent’s future.
They also matter to the world.
According to United Nations statistics, by 2050, a fourth of the world’s population could live in Africa, and this could be the case for over one in three youths (by the international definition of 15-24-year-olds).
The challenges brought about by Africa’s youth bulge are immense, but so could be the opportunities. This is also the case in Kenya.
Too many youths enter adulthood today without sufficient investments in their human capital.
The World Bank’s Human Capital Index is based on six variables.
They include the probability that a child will survive past age five (96 percent in Kenya in the 2020 data update), the years of schooling that a child is expected to complete by age 18 (11.6 years) and the level of learning that a child is expected to acquire (455 on a scale where 625 represents advanced attainment and 300 the lowest attainment).
Others are the learning-adjusted years of schooling that a child is expected to complete, a measure combining the two previous measures (8.5 years), the adult survival rate (77 per cent surviving until age 60) and f the probability that a child will not be stunted in early childhood (74 percent).
Based on those six variables, the expected productivity in adulthood of a child is estimated in comparison to the full productivity that could be expected with full education and health.
The estimate is that a child born in Kenya today will reach only 55 percent of its potential, which is low.
To improve opportunities for youths, investments are needed.
Is there popular support for such investments, and if so, what should be the priorities for investments?
Analysis of Afrobarometer surveys released today by the UNESCO International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (UNESCO IICBA) provides insights on those questions (see IICBA’s Data Briefs).
The data are representative at the national level.
Respondents in the surveys are asked whether they would support higher government taxation to invest in youth.
In Kenya, well over half of respondents state that they would indeed support higher taxation for investments in youth, with youths slightly more likely to say so.
In terms of priorities for investments, the potential priorities listed in the survey questionnaire are job creation, education, job training, business loans, social services (health, drugs), and a category for individuals stating that the Government should not spend in those areas.
Employment (job creation and job training) is as expected the top priority, but education comes next, while social services rank lower.
Very few respondents state that the Government should not spend.
The survey also asks about respondents’ perceptions of Government performance in a range of sectors.
The share of respondents stating that the Government is performing fairly well or very well is low in Kenya as in most other countries, although they are higher for basic services than for issues related to jobs and the economy.
There has been a decline in recent years (between waves 7 and 8 of the Afrobarometer) in the perceived performance of the government in some areas, and an increase in others.
Still, the data suggests the need for improvements in some basic services and other sectors to ensure that youth have the opportunities they need and deserve.
We mentioned earlier that the challenges brought about by Africa’s youth bulge are immense, but so could be the opportunities, thanks to the extraordinary initiative and creativity that many youths in Africa already display.
We need to support the youth by investing in their future.