Almost 60% of Africa’s population is under the age of 25, making the continent the world’s youngest (Mo Ibrahim Foundation, 2019). Africa’s youthful population is a tale of two perspectives – one seeing an enormous resource with almost unlimited potential (African Union Commission, 2006), the other a ticking time bomb if the continent fails to build the structures and economic resilience to support and engage this burgeoning population (African Development Bank, 2018). Seeing youth as Africa’s defining opportunity and challenge, governments across the continent have targeted programs and policies from both angles.
In Ghana, where 57% of the population is less than 25 years old (Index Mundi, 2019), unemployment and exclusion from democratic processes and decision-making are blamed for leaving youth vulnerable to manipulation by political parties, which engage some of them in political violence (Dumenu & Adzraku, 2020; Paalo, 2017). Over the years, successive governments have tried to put in place measures to address these challenges.
In 2006, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government under then-President John A. Kufuor introduced the National Youth Employment Policy, but it lacked both legal backing and bipartisan support (Youth Employment Agency, 2018). In 2010, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government’s National Youth Policy targeted inadequate education and job training, unemployment and underemployment, growing youth involvement in violent conflicts, and increasing juvenile crime. The vision of the National Youth Policy was to mould “an empowered youth contributing positively to national development” (Government of Ghana, 2010). But the NDC government’s Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Agency (GYEEDA) was embroiled in a corruption scandal, and its national coordinator was incarcerated when the NPP returned to power in 2016 (Graphic, 2018) and established the Youth Employment Agency (2018).
After 14 years of interventions by successive governments, challenges and unfulfilled opportunities persist for Ghanaian youth. The Afrobarometer Round 8 survey, conducted in late 2019, reveals that unemployment and education are the most important problems that young Ghanaians want the government to address. Job creation and education are also citizens’ top priorities for additional government investment in youth development, and citizens are willing to pay more taxes to support programs to help young people. However, a majority of Ghanaians – and even of youth – think it’s more important to listen to the wisdom of the elders than to the fresh ideas of the young.