Written by I.K Adusei
It is a shocking fact that, 30 of the world’s 48 least developed countries are in Africa. Worse still, though more than 200 million Africans are between the ages of 15-24 years, Sub-Saharan Africa has about 60% of the unemployed being youth, and an average of 72% of the youth living on less than US$ 2 a day.
The monster of unemployment among young Africans especially those in the rural areas, has led a huge number of them migrate to look for better opportunities in urban areas, but too often find themselves stuck in slums with little or no means of survival. Many of them end up being paid as thugs by political parties or joining militias – not because of an ideological compatibility but because they need to eat. Criminal enterprises also recruit from this pool of the unemployed hopeless youth. This unemployed and desperate youth pose untold danger to the African society.
There are veritable armies of unemployed youth eager to make a living doing whatever they deem fit for the sake of survival. Some leave for greener pastures oversees while a countless number of them either engage in illegal immigration to Europe and the Americas or add up to the pile of unemployed youth who usually live on less than US$ 2 a day.
Most African leaders parade themselves as the breadwinners and the sole providers for their people. They therefore stifle private sector growth while they remain excessively incapacitated in providing sustainable jobs for their people. They have no viable policies to support group and individual initiatives. There are no genuine efforts to harness and develop talents, intellects, scientist, inventors and innovators. These talents, initiatives and projects go fallow, unattended to and unsupported. This invariably has been the major bane of industrialization and job creation on the African continent.
As our leaders were dogmatically taught in the classrooms of their colonial masters, their focus have perpetually been on the production and exportation of raw materials to gain revenue to feed the large masses of the people. To keep doing the old things and expecting different results has been tagged as the definition of madness.
Enough is enough Africa! History makes us know and understand that no single country has ever become rich by being a chief exporter of foodstuffs and raw materials without further development of its industrial sector and presently, advanced service sector.
It is a disturbing fact that, the more a country specializes in the production of raw materials, the poorer it becomes. This is a medicine which African leaders find so difficult to push down their throats. In the 19th century, the saying in America was: “Don’t do as the English tell you to do, do as the English did.” In this 21st century a good advice to African leaders and that of other developing countries is that: “Don’t do as the Americans and British tell you to do, do as the Americans and the British did.”
It is about time African leaders learn from history. The Roman politician and philosopher, Cicero ones said, “Not to know what has been transacted in former times is to be always a child. If no use is made of labors of past ages, the world must remain always in the infantry of knowledge.”
History teaches us that all the nations that went from poverty to wealth used the same toolbox which was first developed by the city-states of Florence and Venice in Italy, and the Dutch Republic in today’s Netherlands, borrowed and enhanced by Britain, and imitated by the United Sates and the late comers in Asia thus: Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, China and India.
Until African leaders see the need to adopt the import substitution industrialization which the Venetians and Genoese adopted in the 13th century, the English in the 16th century, the Americans in the 19th century and so on, sustainable economic development, independence and progress will elude us like a mirage while unemployment tears our social and economic fabric apart like a canker, leading us into eternal dependency, vulnerability, poverty and misery.
Now the toolbox; what then is the toolbox? Two most conspicuous writers have succeeded in assembling all the various parts of this toolbox in their writings. Erick S. Reinert, a Norwegian Economic Historian as well as Ha-Joon Chang, a South Korean Economist have elaborated this toolbox in their books: How Rich Countries Got Rich...and Why Poor Countries Stay poor as well as Bad Samaritans – The Guilt Secrets of Rich Nations & the Threat to Global Prosperity respectively.
These rich countries are driven on the wheels of industrialization, division of labor and private sector development. Invariably, the youth have been at the heart of this massive evolution in these rich and enviable countries.
It is evident that, the power of every successful nation is the youth power and thus, the strength of a nation’s youth determines the nation’s strength. Youth development therefore equals national development.
Singapore for instance (a third world country which has succeeded in evolving to first world between 1965 -2000) has over the years relied on the power of the youth for their economic fortunes. Today, the National Youth Council of Singapore continues to supports youth organizations strongly in terms of funding for projects, and has implemented various schemes to enhance youth organizations’ capacity. It has also developed a policy to facilitate the support of local youth organizations to benefit from foreign funds and grants, international partnerships as well as linking local youth organizations to foreign youth sectors and agencies. This is with the ultimate aim of nurturing a world-ready youth to provide quality human resource for national development at the long run.
Africa has come of age, and it is about time our leaders became dyed-in-the-wool students and artisans of world economic history. If Africa will see the radiant light of day, the youth must bear the light. Youth neglect in the development process has over the years been the major bane of Africa’s development. Africa's economy needs fundamental change NOW!