Lost at sea: African youth hungry for opportunities

Lost at sea: African youth hungry for opportunities
  • PublishedNovember 22, 2014

It was as a result of this that the AU developed a Social Policy Framework (SPF) for Africa. Among the 18 key issues that it focused on were youth, and migration. It was acknowledged that the high “unemployment and underemployment” of young people on the continent was a major challenge for African governments.

The document explained: “Most young people who work are employed in low-paying, temporary positions, working long hours under poor conditions, often with few, if any, protections. This type of work is likely to persist well into the future.

“Young people have become the street youth of Africa – hustling to make a living through the petty trading of fruit, telephone cards and other portable goods. Young people in sub-Saharan Africa are only second to [those in] South Asia in the extent to which they live in extreme poverty and hunger …Despite the expansions of democratic governance on the continent, and the value attached to youth participation in policy-making, contemporary youth organisations claim it is not meaningfully realised.

Young people voice concerns about how they are treated by governments – often more as a threat than a partner. Moreover, youth structures and processes are seldom sufficiently resourced and young people often lack the capacity or know-how to function independently or to implement programmes envisioned by policies,” the document added.

Given the above situation, is it any wonder that young Africans are ready to take the risk and make the rough crossing into Europe? The desperation of this generation of the continent’s young is palpable.

At the height of the Iraqi resistance to US forces after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, young Africans were ready to work for private security companies in the cauldron that was Baghdad for as little as $100 a month. But many returned home because they could not stand the heat. So, for those who might have tried Iraq, crossing the Mediterranean might seem a doddle.

Migration from Africa, despite the obstacles and the continent’s growing opportunities, will continue, as the AU acknowledges. This was recognised as far back as 2006, when the AU noted that out of 150 million migrants worldwide, 50 million were Africans.

Indeed, when Muammar Gathafi was in power in Libya, some 2.5 million sub-Saharan Africans emigrated to Libya because the country provided jobs and the government fully backed the AU project. But once Gathafi was ousted in 2011 by Western-backed rebels – who are now tearing the country apart – Africans with darker skins were no longer welcome.

The IOM report explained: “Nevertheless, the impression that Libya can provide good employment opportunities for sub-Saharan Africans continues to draw tens of thousands of migrants every year. Many have no intention to cross over to Europe when they first set foot from their countries of origin; however, a greater share are now crossing the Mediterranean, pushed out by the harsh and ill-treatment from authorities and locals in post-revolution Libya.”

Written By
Desmond Davies

A former Editor of West Africa magazine in London Desmond Davies, originally from Sierra Leone, has been a journalist and commentator on African affairs for almost 40 years in the press, radio and television such as BBC World TV, Al Jazeera, Press TV and CNN. He has covered Africa extensively and has a wide range of influential contacts in the continent. Desmond holds an MA in Mass Communications from the University of Leicester in the UK. His specialities are strategic and political communications. Media and Communications Consult, Due Diligence Expert on Africa.

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