Africa is a continent with a burgeoning youth population: In 2010, statistics showed that 63% of the population on the continent was below the age of 25. Yet not much has been done by our leaders to cater for the future of the youth.
In 2017, the African Union’s theme was “Harnessing the demographic dividend through investment in the youth”. Although this was an important statement, showing some awareness of the many challenges the youth on the continent is facing and of the importance of developing youth-focused policies and programmes, it soon proved to be no more than lip service. The 54 heads of state that constitute the African Union Assembly of the Heads of State and Government hardly implemented anything back home and have subsequently produced hardly any youth-focused initiatives or plans for their countries.
In fact, many of Africa’s elderly leaders seem to have very little regard for the youth of their countries. For example, at an international press conference Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, 76, said, “Nigerian youths are lazy, they want everything free.” Similarly, Uganda’s long-serving President Yoweri Museveni, 74, told the youth of his country, “You don’t see my daughters looking for jobs. I saved for them – assets, property… You don’t see my children looking for jobs because they are busy with their wealth.” And Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta told the Kenyan youth that he did not want “young thieves” after appointing 91-year-old former Vice President Moody Awori to the board of the Sports, Art and Social Development Fund.
These elderly and disdainful leaders would do well to consider a country like Ethiopia, which, under the leadership of the young and dynamic Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, 43, is making huge strides by placing that country at the centre of international investment and economic and technological progress. Compare that to Cameroon’s President Paul Biya, 82, who hardly lives in his own country.
For this continent to live up to its potential and realise a vibrant future, as embodied in its young people, the many old leaders who have overstayed their welcome have to go, either through protests or through the ballot. For far too long the youth of Africa have seen their futures being compromised and their lives getting bogged down in stagnation because of elderly, out-of-touch and corrupt leaders who refuse to step aside.
While the removal of one old leader in Sudan does not necessarily spell immediate progress, it does show that young Africans know full well who the leaders are that are holding them back and stifling the development and progress of their countries. Watch this space…