Is Africa a good place for its youth to fulfill their dreams? Guest editor Abigail Ashun-Sarpy thinks it is – precisely because it abounds with so many challenges for them.
Is Africa a great continent for fulfilling one’s dream? This is a question that I have asked myself on several occasions. The answers have always varied: sometimes yes, sometimes no. I believe that this uncertainty is shared by the millions of young Africans living on the continent and even elsewhere in the world.
The general feeling is a desire to be hopeful. But this hope is constantly battered from all sides by seemingly unsurmountable obstacles.
The days I answer ‘yes’ are the days I desire to be hopeful about a future for me and the other young Ghanaians with dreams and ambitions. These often encompass a good job, good pay, and the life-changing impact we anticipate making. When I see my friends and colleagues putting in the hard work to make their dreams a reality, I am hopeful about the possibilities for my country and my home continent.
Much like young people all over the world, African youth are bursting with talent and potential, and are looking to have their voices heard. They desire to make their home countries a place they can be proud of.
Nonetheless, on most days my answer to this question is a ‘no’. I have been one of the lucky ones. I grew up in Ghana’s capital, Accra. As a result, I was privileged to have access to electricity, decent internet, and a good primary education which paved the way to good secondary and tertiary education.
For this reason, I could afford to hope. I am able to aspire to a future of socio-economic security for myself and my family; and to make some sort of impact in my lifetime. Even so, I struggled against a system that appears to be structured to encourage failure.
Lost hope in political leadership
Over the years, the costs of education in public institutions in Ghana consistently increased, in tandem with rising costs of living, and stagnant salaries or remuneration. Thus, public education, which is purported to make education accessible to the less privileged, has become the reserve of a privileged few.
Furthermore, many young people in Ghana come out of school to join a saturated job market, and spend extended periods of time in unemployment or underemployment. So then, even education is unable to guarantee social mobility.
The quality of life for many Ghanaians is less than ideal. Partisan politics have left the social and economic needs of the citizens at second priority. Nationwide coverage of electricity and potable water is non-existent, with inconsistent supply even where they exist.
There is a huge digital divide where the majority of young people have little or no access to a stable internet connection and ICT tools, which are key to education and entrepreneurship today.
More than half of the youth population want to leave the country and never come back. Many have lost hope in political leadership and the possibility of real change, because of blatant corruption and policies that do not truly benefit the people but rather, serve to line the pockets of the higher-ups. This situation is not unique to any one country on the continent.
Thus, a more realistic question may be this: is it really possible to dream in Africa? It depends. It depends on whether or not all Africans can muster up enough motivation to make the African dream a reality.
If we could hold true to patriotism and eschew the behaviours that put one another at risk, then, there is hope yet. The budding innovations being churned out all over the continent despite innumerable setbacks, shine a bright light on the potential of a resilient youth.
I asked a friend whether or not he believes Africa is a great continent to fulfil one’s dreams and his answer was this: “Yes, because it is filled with a multitude of problems that need solving.” Despite all the reasons I can cite to buttress why Africa is bad for dreaming, deep down, I share his opinion. At the heart of progress is a drive to solve problems, and Africa surely abounds with them.
Read more from our special report African Youth Speaks.