Sub-Saharan Africa’s 'youth bulge' is expected to shape development processes and policies over coming decades. For some, this is a worrying dynamic given the region’s low levels of development and fragile political systems. For others, the youth offer the prospect of being 'new agents of change' by introducing greater economic dynamism and political accountability. Despite the journalistic attention paid to youth issues, especially in the wake of the global recession, there has been far less rigorous scholarship on the behaviors and impact of youth on African development.
UNU-WIDER’s project will examine the impact of youth on economic development and political transformation through the research of an inter-disciplinary team. The project is structured around three thematic areas:
1) Participation in economic development
Although Africa has enjoyed a “decade of growth”, there are worrying signs that this growth has not resulted in the greater availability of jobs or in employment that would be considered “decent work.” This theme is therefore concerned with better understanding the contours of Africa’s economic and demographic structural transformation, with a particular focus on livelihood options for the youth in both rural and urban areas. Specific topics include structural transformation and employment; urbanization and livelihood prospects; and agriculture and rural areas.
2) Modes of engagement with the state
Africa’s youth choose different ways of engaging with the state in reaction to their often difficult socioeconomic circumstances. While some youth have chosen an “exit” option by migrating to another country, others may channel their grievances through democratic representatives and institutions. Still others may employ extra-institutional methods, highlighted in the most extreme instances by taking up arms against the state. Specific topics include cross-border migration; democratization; and conflict situations and failed states.
3) Points of policy intervention
In order to prevent the marginalization of the youth from the economic, social and political spheres, cutting edge policy interventions by African governments, international donors, and the non-governmental community are needed. This theme will analyze what policies have been attempted by such actors as well as areas for improvement and gaps that remain unaddressed. Specific policies include education and vocational training; labor markets and job creation; agriculture policies; social protection; reintegration after conflict.