An Urgent Call: Create Opportunity for Africa’s Youth

by Jumbe Sebunya, ChildFund Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa

man at desk

Jumbe Sebunya

This post is adapted from remarks at the African Child Policy Forum held in Maputo, Mozambique, last week.

With roughly half of Africa’s population under the age of 24 (and closer to three-quarters of the population in many of our countries) child development issues are more relevant to the African continent than to many others — and are more urgent than ever.

Between now and 2025, more than half a billion young women and men will enter the labor force in Africa, and currently there are not half a billion new jobs waiting for them. For governments and other key stakeholders, this raises formidable policy questions:

  • Is there a clear relationship between development planning and demography in our policies and practice?
  • Are there positive interventions planned by sector ministries, civil society organizations and the private sector to reflect these demographic trends, in terms of training, employment and education activities?
  • What should be the measurable positive outcomes of successfully engaging even a fraction of these young people in our socio-economic activities?
  • What is the worst possible scenario if the labor entrants — half a billion plus — are marginalized, powerless and excluded?
  • Is the recent declaration by the African Union heads of state on “Accelerating Youth Employment for Sustainable Development” a political rhetoric or a policy reality?

ChildFund, for more than 70 years, has been struggling with these questions but also inspired and driven by the potential that is inherent in children.

We work with deprived, excluded and vulnerable children so that they have the capacity to improve their lives and the opportunity to become young adults, parents and leaders who bring lasting and positive change to their communities. ChildFund’s distinctive approach is child-centered. We work with children, families, local organizations, government agencies and communities on clearly defined core outcomes for children throughout their life cycle from birth to young adulthood up to 24 years of age.

ChildFund core commitment is focused on child-centered developmental changes that seek positive outcomes for children at every stage of their lives: at infancy (0 – 5 years), through programs that promote health and security; at a young age (6 – 14 years), by focusing on child sponsorship programs and other activities that promote educated and confident children; and at young adulthood (15 – 24 years), by offering leadership and socio-economic skill development programs.

In 2010, ChildFund reached millions of infants, children and youth in 31 countries. Of these children, 56 percent are from Africa, 12 percent are in the Americas, 31 percent live in Asia and 1 percent are in Europe.

ChildFund Mozambique is at an early stage of development interventions, representing only about 1 percent of the total children and youth who have benefited from ChildFund’s work in Africa. We have, however, developed promising programs in Mozambique.

A good example is our Early Childhood Development (ECD) program, which is focused on the first eight years of a child’s life. These are critical years in establishing the foundation upon which the child grows and develops.

ChildFund Mozambique ECD programs build local capacities of families, communities and government agencies. Specifically, we are working in Mozambique’s Zavala and Gondola districts to create an environment where young children can grow and develop their potential. The ECD program, which is implemented through local associations, focuses on strengthening the synergies among children’s health, nutrition, protection, stimulation, psychosocial support and age-appropriate play and learning.

At ChildFund, we believe that the well-being of children leads to the well-being of the world. To achieve long-lasting change, you need partnership at all levels with strong networks of families and local organizations as well as a broad constituency at national and global levels so that we all join hands to champion the overall well-being of children.

Tomorrow: We hear from a youth who spoke at the forum.

2 responses to “An Urgent Call: Create Opportunity for Africa’s Youth

  1. Thanks ChildFund for yoru programs especially the focus on young populations. My country Uganda and its community we have known for decade as mostly subsistence agriculture peasants is going to be impacted very soon, if not already, by the young population and climate change. These two objects are the game changers when looking at Uganda in the next ten to twenty years. The future of Uganda is going to depend on how our leaders treat or play the dynamics between – the current youthful populations and nature resource management.

    This definitely suggests a new delivery method and support process for an integrated economy. This calls for analysis of strategies and partnerships required to address the financial needs of the youthful population, rural community based enterprises, the design and implementation of business development services, and value chain initiatives that will take advantage of the regional and global markets. The youth and rural poverty in Uganda is rooted in a lack of economic opportunities and in the deterioration of natural resources essential to productive activities. Natural resources conservation threats are recognized in Uganda.

    The four most pressing threats are: bush meat poaching, human/animal conflict, illegal timber cutting, and oil exploration. With the exception of the latter, these threats are caused by surrounding communities with high poverty rates and increasingly high population densities. As populations increase, land and other essential resources become scarce, causing increased pressure.

  2. I am very encouraged by this post and praise your efforts to build into the lives of the precious youth of Africa. May this generation of children grow up knowing their true value and worth. I pray they believe in the power they have to make good choices that benefit themselves and the generations that follow them. May these children break down belief systems or traditions that have held their parents down and that have created chaos and disorganization. May they be a generation that is loved and in turn loves selflessly for the benefit of all. May this generation be unified in purpose. May they believe in their own value and the great value of each individual and do all they can to honor one another. May they be courageous to reject any belief system that would oppress and degrade the value every person. And may they grow in knowledge and in character for the glory of God and for the blessing of their beloved continent, Africa.