One of Africa’s greatest resources is its burgeoning youth population. According to United Nations Development Programme, Africa’s youth population is projected to reach over 830 million by 2050, making Africa the youngest continent.

However, Africa is not tapping into the potential of its youth population. On the contrary, Africa has exploited, neglected and ignored its youths, especially in the political space. The African Charter recognises youths as individuals between the ages of 15 and 35. Yet, older men in their 80s, who should have retired, occupy the corridors of power and refuse to create space for youth participation and involvement; this leaves Africa with institutions that cannot take any meaningful actions to address contemporary issues most relevant to young people and the changing world.

Not only are the leadership propensity of the youths undermined by the older generation, but their opinions are not sought for or even considered important; however, the same youths are deployed to play thugs, disrupt elections and incite violence by the ‘powers that be’ for their selfish political aspirations.

In contemporary society, youth is the epicentre of all developmental strides because they make up a significant portion of society. Youths play an important role in fostering sustainable development and advancement, and they have the advantage of strength, technology and dynamism to drive national peace, progress and prosperity. When a society refuses to maximise its youth population, such a society will not progress and ultimately fail.

The many woes plaguing the African continent are a direct reflection of what happens when a society decides to neglect its youths.

When youths and their interests are not represented adequately in formal political institutions and processes such as parliaments, political parties, elections, and public administrations, most lose interest in nation-building and development. Some migrate to fairer climes where they can thrive. A good proportion engages in a ‘make it or die trying’ hustle that most times lead to committing social vices. A handful suffering economic importunity become potential recruits for terrorist groups, banditry, robbery, kidnapping etc. Consequently, turning the greatest resource of the African continent into a curse.

However, turning to violence or escaping to greener pastures will not resolve the political instability and bad governance that has stagnated the development of Africa.

Africa is our home and will always be.

It is, therefore, expedient that the youths of Africa rise from being victims and take strategic measures to ensure stability and good governance.

What role can African youths play in ensuring governance and leadership?

Before we delve right into the role of African youths in achieving good governance, let us first understand the meaning of good governance.

According to the United Nations (UN), good governance is participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive, and follows the rule of law.

Youths are indispensable in achieving the highlighted elements of good governance above in their respective countries, which is fundamental to attaining social, political and economic development.

The role of African youths includes:

Be informed:

Information is key. African youths should know their fundamental human rights and familiarise themselves with the constitution. They should seek information about their government and educate themselves on the processes of government.

Develop sustainable policies:

A good leader and a bad one are tied to policies. A good leader commits to developing and implementing policies that will ensure good governance and foster sustainable development, while a bad leader shortchanges existing good policies for selfish purposes.

African youths should commit to developing policies in their different sectors and interests that their leaders can leverage to foster good governance. They should also put in place a system to track the adoption and implementation of such policies.

Participation in politics:

African youths cannot be clamouring for good governance without actively participating in political and electoral activities that will decide their leaders. As such, African youths should be intentional about joining political parties, rising through the ranks from ordinary party members to party delegates. They should register for and obtain their voter’s cards or any document that will enable their active participation in election.

Eligible youths interested in politics should invest time in setting up grassroots systems that will ensure that good governance is achieved in their time.

Youth Organization:

It has become paramount that African youths form a national youth organisation in their respective countries. This organisation will carry out grassroots political awareness campaigns to educate the less enlightened, collaborate between the different arms of government to meet the needs of youths, set up processes to ensure good governance, and screen and support youths contesting for political offices.

Grassroots civic education and awareness:

Young people should be on the front line sensitising and educating their peers on the principles of good governance. With the help of the state and non-state actors, they should conduct civic education and organise awareness campaigns to enlighten the masses at the grassroots level. Active youth participation in governance requires civic education to instil ethical values that can help uninformed masses, especially youths. to distinguish right from wrong.

Become role models:

Leadership is a life-long journey that starts from the home, extends to social institutions like schools and religious gatherings, and continues in the corporate world before climaxing to political offices.

African youths should become good leaders and exemplify the elements of good governance in whatever capacity they are called to serve. This way, they prepare themselves to be great leaders in their country when the opportunity presents itself.