The stories and articles in our special report on African youth edited by six young Africans reveal a deep understanding of current African issues and an abiding love and warmth for the Mother Continent. New African editor Anver Versi introduces the report.
We have great pleasure in presenting this special report which has been guest-edited by six young Africans (see below), all of whom are Mastercard Foundation scholars.
Perhaps more than enough has been said about Africa’s ‘youth bulge’ and the demographic dividend (or nightmare!) to bear repeating here. What is critical is that while youth comprise by far the largest segment of populations in most African countries, they are still some of the most marginalised and underestimated of any region in the world.
It is the youth that give any society its dynamic core. By definition, young people look forward and have an inbuilt impulse to change what is not working or outdated. This is nature’s law. It is what defines human evolution and progress – consistently building on what has been achieved in the past and pushing the boundaries of what is possible.
Older generations, with enterprises and societies to manage and families to nurture, tend to be more conservative, more reluctant to change and sometimes bask more in nostalgia than in imagining futures. This is also a law of nature and ensures that social evolution is grounded on a solid base while simultaneously engaging the cutting edge to shape the future.
This arrangement forms the basis of most education systems, of the world of work and production and of political systems.
At its best the arrangement works in great harmony, with the youth replacing their elders and in turn, themselves becoming the older generation and raising their youth. When and where it works, societies advance as errors of the past are corrected and new discoveries are turned into useful technologies that are applied to the business of life.
The young are encouraged to experiment, to think out of the box, to tear up accepted notions as the new can only emerge by abandoning the old. But of course, not all new ideas work – in fact, most do not but if the core is solid, the young can be given a free rein to push boundaries and new ideas can be allowed to germinate in controlled environments and subjected to the test of time and function.
Good education systems support and encourage this by allowing all ideas and thoughts to circulate and be debated and discussed; in other words, freedom of thought and expression.
Falling out of step
The problems begin when not all parties to the demographic mix keep to the arrangements. If the older and younger generations fall out of step with each other, the resulting tension tends to paralyse societies or at worst, to fracture them with civil conflicts which, as we can see around the world, often descend into violent conflagrations.
It is the responsibility of the older, more mature segment of a society to prepare the ground for the youth to thrive by providing quality education, training, mentoring, guidance, encouragement, sympathy and love and affection to the young, who have their own growing-up demons to deal with in addition to other forms of personal development.
If this is lacking, the youth are cast adrift. They are left to their own devices and often coalesce into sullen groups which can very easily be led into criminality or extremism. They are often shunted to the margins and their voices are either muted or come out as distorted cries of anguish. When this happens, the society is in serious trouble. What is worse is that this attitude can become a culture that is then passed on to the next generation. Often the only solution that the young can see is to abandon their societies and at great risk to their lives, look for opportunities in totally different societies.
It is with all this in mind, as well as the current political and economic situation in Africa vis-à-vis the rest of the world and its own internal dynamics, that we invited our guest editors to our pages and asked them to focus on those areas that most resonate with them.
The result, as no doubt you will experience yourself, dear reader, has been a fascinating eye-opener for most of us. The stories and articles reveal a deep understanding of current African issues and an abiding love and warmth for the Mother Continent. It is also clear that the young Africans think about their own conditions and the problems in a mature and realistic manner and consistently seek solutions.
Those who may have passed the first flush of youth will also be reassured to learn that the young do not seek confrontation but cooperation and guidance from their elders, who they not only respect but love deeply. But they are also adamant that the future is theirs and they will not compromise it by accepting the low standards, hypocrisy and moral corruption that characterises so much of current African leadership.
This is as it should be.
Read our special report African Youth Speaks.
Our guest editors
Abigail is a Master’s student and an Emile Boutmy Scholar reading International Development at Sciences Po in Paris. She has worked in varied roles to garner knowledge and competencies in development work and advocacy, focused on youth empowerment and gender equality. In November 2018, she joined the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Ghana as one of 16 inaugural fellows of the maiden Youth Leaders (YoLe) Fellowship Programme, and subsequently transitioned into a junior consultancy role, still at UNFPA Ghana.
Abigail holds a BA in French and Linguistics from the University of Ghana, Legon. As part of her course, she spent a language immersion year at the University of Poitiers, France in 2015-16. She is fluent in Akan, English, French, Ga, and is working towards fluency in Spanish.
She began her professional life as an administrative assistant at Campus France Ghana, and then at the French Embassy in Ghana. She is also a Fellow of the Young Africa Leaders Initiative (YALI) Alumni Network and a member of the Africa Youth and Adolescents Network (AfriYAN) in Ghana.
Her interests include project management, development consultancy, and diplomacy; and she aspires to roles where her work will be impactful for socio-economic development, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
Her enthusiasms include writing, reading, and watching movies.
‘Since I was a child, my best memories are of when I took a pen or pencil to write on a piece of paper or in a notebook. I loved telling stories from newspapers, books, and movies to my family and friends.’
The storytelling spark led Amandine to pursue journalism and communication studies.
Today, Amandine is a French news reporter and anchor at the Rwanda Broadcasting Agency. Her love of communication has been the key driver in helping her acquire the skills and knowledge to serve her community, in a myriad of roles over the years. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Communications from Institut Catholique de Kabgayi. She is pursuing a Masters degree in International Relations and Diplomacy at Mount Kenya University’s Kigali campus.
She is passionate about social advocacy and empowerment for women and the elderly (strengthening women’s social relations and their positions in social structures, giving them more of a purpose outside of the home, and dignity).
Amandine’s intention is to be a model of excellence and integrity through her work as a journalist who also advocates for social justice and equality.
Bervelyn Longdon has extensive experience of working on SDGs 3, 4, 5 – Good Health & Wellbeing, Quality Education and Gender Equality, in the media sector. As a broadcast journalist with Ghana’s leading media firm (Citi FM/Citi TV), her work focuses on reporting and exposing loopholes in Ghana’s health and education systems, which influences the decisions of policy makers on the health and education of Ghanaians.
Bervelyn worked with Ghana Broadcasting Corporation as a co-producer of the organisation’s current affairs programme Focus, which interrogates state policies.
Bervelyn had her tertiary education at the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), graduating in 2018 on a full scholarship from Mastercard Foundation’s CAMFED programme with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies, majoring in journalism.
Bervelyn mentors a group of young people to help shape their future by exposing them to the right information and role models, to assist them in making informed career and education decisions. She is a 2017 Resolution Project Semi-finalist with her co-founded Rising Youth Mentorship Program. Through these experiences, she developed strong advocacy and writing skills.
She enjoys focusing on the topics of health, gender equality and quality education and has a strong passion for journalism.
Read her article Covid has shattered many young aspirations in Africa
Esther Neema is a journalist, public relations expert and entrepreneur with many years’ experience.
She began an early career as a writer and actress at the age of 19. She later started a career in the media from campus, at Shine FM radio station.
This was followed by her selection for further skills development in a talent search run by Radio Africa group. She trained in journalism, reporting and presenting at Radio Africa.
Esther then hosted a women’s talk show, Expressions, interviewing women of influence and highlighting issues affecting women for Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC).
She later went to Pwani TV, where she was a reporter and a producer, initiating two television shows, Uhondo and Uongozi. She also presented The Amazing World of Engineering for NTV.
She has featured in a number of commercials as a model, as well as acting in local and regional films and performing on stage. Today, she runs a network of over 500 entrepreneurs, Dream Tribe Network Africa, that has earned her acclaim for her business leadership.
She has also received international recognition for her writing, at the Commonwealth Young Writers platform, and has ever since been writing on various issues, currently with a focus on entrepreneurship and the arts.
Read her article Two extreme sides of African youth
Nqabisa Faku is an emerging South African leader, research activist, storyteller and editor. She is a Mastercard Foundation scholar who aspires to be an agent of change in the mental health sector in her country and Africa at
Nqabisa is pursuing a Master of Arts degree in Psychological Research at the University of Cape Town (UCT).
She is engaging young people on their mental health status and access to mental health care, in order to explore the barriers and facilitators to meeting their mental health needs in the future through a counselling programme designed for them.
Alongside these studies, Nqabisa works as an academic tutor in the Department of Psychology at UCT.
In 2020, Nqabisa served as a staff writer for the UCT student chapter of Her Campus, the first African student chapter of the online women-led publication for university students across more than 350 campuses worldwide.
She enjoys writing on topics authentic to her identity and lived experience as a young Xhosa woman navigating success, African spirituality, feminism, relationships, and grief.
As a Youth Guest Editor, Nqabisa has sought to develop her editorial skills and highlight issues concerning the African continent.
Read her article Unity is the key for African youth
Wachira Warukira is a Mastercard Foundation graduate scholar. He is a Kenya-based creative entrepreneur operating as a music producer, singer, songwriter, pencil artist and aspiring author. He holds a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Ashesi University in Ghana. He is focused on using music and art to solve societal problems, especially mental health for the youth, and access to quality education in rural areas and slums.
He is the Founder & CEO of Waruks Productions, a music production and artist management company based in Banana, Kiambu, Kenya. He is the host of Waruks LIVE – a live show by Waruks Productions that seeks to address youth challenges through music and stories. His studio, in partnership with the University of Massachusetts’ World Librarian Program, runs a programme which provides rural/ offline schools and communities with affordable e-learning solutions.
Wachira is passionate about youth mentorship and development and is always engaged in opportunities that are centred around making the lives and livelihoods of young people better.
His career interests are in arts and entertainment, social entrepreneurship, teaching and coaching.