Youth unemployment in Africa is a major issue. The magnitude of unemployment the youth who have graduated through our educational system face questions the quantum of human resource we’re wasting when we consider the many more young Africans who never made it to the tertiary level at all.
Youth unemployment has resulted in purposeless or aimless living which is the underlining reason behind inordinate ambition, cyber fraud, drug abuse, prostitution, sexual immorality, teenage pregnancy, armed robbery, cultism, political vigilantism, and other vices in Africa.
The increase in youth population – although modest in Ghana compared to some other countries – is expected to be peaking in the next 10-15years, making the question of helping youth transition into productive service or employment a particularly timely issue.
In spite of the efforts put into leadership development since independence, many scholars have blamed the underdevelopment in Africa on poor leadership. The continent continues to suffer underdevelopment with no hope of change until it develops the kind of change-driven leaders it needs.
There is an ongoing discussion on the effectiveness of foreign aid in helping the economic development of Africa. One thing is obvious: the results are not exactly what Africa’s development partners have expected, and the reasons are not far-fetched.
However, most developing economies have political and economic systems that are extractive. Those in the ruling class have a strong hold on political power, and use it to channel economic resources to benefit themselves and those close to them. Foreign aid, when channelled through such extractive systems, almost never reaches the most vulnerable in society. We need to rethink the form of aid Africa needs and the platforms for distributing or offering it.
The Problem is Leadership
The cultivation of leaders with exceptional character and skills is critical to Africa’s development. Africa’s development partners should recognize that it is too late to teach someone who occupies a high position in government how to lead during side talks at global events. They should also bear in mind that there has to be alignment between the sense of identity of the leader and that of the followers for leadership to work.
Incompetence in leadership in most African countries is not only the problem of people who occupy positions in government; it is a reflection of the leadership culture. We’ve had different leaders with the same results for decades. The power distance that exists between leaders in government and citizens is also reflected in organizations and families. In such a structure, leaders don’t serve; they are served, because occupying leadership positions make leaders superior and unaccountable to the people they lead. Africa needs leadership development systems, and it is incumbent on development partners and global leaders to understand how cultural differences affect these.
Opportunities for developing leaders have never been greater in our increasingly complex world. Diagnosing leadership development needs, especially in Africa, requires an assessment of the entire leadership culture. Leaders do whatever it takes to produce results in such a leadership culture, and they usually position themselves and their cronies above the law. Most of the citizens have leadership potential, but several factors inhibit their leadership development, such as bad governance, poverty, corruption and religious bias. Most young people in Africa are hungry to learn and to realize their potential. They seek respected mentors and resources to help them navigate the complex life challenges they face. However, there is a dearth of institutions and curricula to help them realize such desires.
Change is Possible