The dreams, aspirations and ambitions of many young Africans have been shattered by a virus that continues to claim the lives of both young and old, says our guest editor Bervelyn Longdon.
Covid-19 has put to test the efficiency, effectiveness and reliability of systems of both strong and weak states and government institutions across the world. The impact of the virus has cost the lives of many, robbed people of their livelihoods, and affected economies drastically.
For some people, Covid-19 brought difficult moments they are yet to recover from. For others, it became the gateway to nurture their potential, a spur to their aspirations and a source of empowerment to attempt feats they would not ordinarily dare.
The World Health Organisation has projected that Covid-19 could last for some three years, meaning countries and the youth in particular would have to get accustomed to the existence of the virus and its associated consequences.
Millions of jobs across the globe have been lost due to the crisis. Dreams and aspirations have been shortened, for a period or perhaps for an unknown time.
The International Labour Organisation’s Covid-19 and the World of Work report indicates that, “There has been a 14% drop in global working hours during the second quarter of 2020, equivalent to the loss of 400m full-time jobs (based on a 48-hour working week). This is a sharp increase on the previous estimate (issued on May 27, 2020), of a 10.7% drop (305m jobs).”
For economies and countries which have been badly hit by the pandemic, the youth in particular have been faced with job losses as firms and organisations crumbled from the impacts.
A report by the Ghana Statistical Service has disclosed that the income of 22m Ghanaians in the country has reduced since March 2020. The service further indicated that in the same year, two million people did not engage in any work activity due to Covid-19 related safety issues. Worse scenarios have been recorded in other countries.
The looming effect of Covid-19 is also apparent in the education sector. Countries have been forced to adopt a digital mode to ensure continuity of education. Even before Covid-19 hit, African countries were faced with challenges in providing the needed infrastructure, internet accessibility, and educational materials, among others.
Most countries shut down their educational institutions, from the basic level through to the tertiary level, as a measure to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. According to the International Labour Organisation, “65% of the youth in high income countries were taught via video-lectures while just 18% in low-income countries were able to keep studying online.
Shaken by the coronavirus-driven recession, the youth are faced with uncertainty about their future and the opportunities that lie ahead. Not only have their dreams to return to face-to-face formal education been disrupted, their dreams and ambitions to seek further education at all levels have been limited.
Most countries across the globe, irrespective of their economic status, are faced with a hike in youth unemployment during this period. The aftermath of Covid-19 and the difficulty in acquiring vaccines have worsened the possibility of job security for young people, which is often influenced by the level of education and skills of jobseekers.
The 2020 International Report by the ILO again reveals that 38% of young people are uncertain about their future career prospects, with the crisis expected to create more obstacles in the labour market and to lengthen the transition from school to work.
There is no doubt the pandemic created the opportunity for young people to be innovative and creative in their own thinking, to start and build businesses; taking advantage of digital technology and e-commerce platforms.
However, the daunting effect of Covid-19 has cost the youth much more than they have gained. The dreams, aspirations and ambitions of young people have been shattered by a virus that continues to claim the lives of both young and old.
In the face of all this, there’s a need for the urgent formulation and implementation of new educational and economic policies, and the building of partnerships by political leaders, to create spaces that will enable the youth to thrive in their chosen ventures.
Read more from our special report African Youth Speaks.