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“Digital skills are the best investment”
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“Digital skills are the best investment”

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Judith Akoth picThe digital world offers opportunity to the burgeoning youth population of Africa, writes Judith Akoth, 25, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Kisumu in Kenya, who looks at the investment required to realise the potential.

Our youthful population continues to bulge! According to statistics released by UNFPA, World Populations Day 2016, the youth population today stands at a staggering 1.8 billion.

“There are more young people today than ever before in human history,” UNFPA declared .

In this context, in many research documents, Africa has been depicted as the world’s youngest continent, as the proportion of the youth among the region’s total population is higher than in any other continent. This implies that in Africa there is a large human resource capable of transforming the economy by revolutionising service delivery, coming up with productive enhancing innovations, and coming to be positive agents for change.

There is just so much that our African youth can do in the 21st century economy. Unfortunately, times are hard and the Sub-Saharan African youth have been hit hardest! Even though the region has experienced one of the best decades of growth since the 1960s and some of its countries are among the fastest growing in the world, her youth continue to face myriad challenges, and at the height of it all is unemployment.

Unemployment as a youth challenge in Sub-Saharan Africa has been largely attributed to lack of skills sets required by the job market and a saturated economy that slowly absorbs few annually. As a result, many youth have remained unemployed over a long periods, and as such have become vulnerable to societal ills such as being misused as political hooligans, indulging in criminal activities, and risky sexual behaviors. Many other brilliants minds have been reduced to the ‘working poor’ or community idlers.

These are constrained times, but despite the challenges, the Sub-Saharan youth have still defied the odds to prove that they are a valuable gem to the region’s economy. For example, in Kenya the youth have taken a leading role in using social media to advocate for positive change and peace, and to condemn corruption in the country.

And this is not all.  In Ethiopia the youth have taken up the leather industry, and developed leather products that woo the world. In West Africa, young entrepreneurs are minting millions through selling Ankara designer clothing that has taken the world by storm!

So these scenarios clearly illustrate that if we could nurture our youth in an equitable and favorable environment, they are well capable of living up to their full potential. Based my personal opinion, I believe that making the youth in this region adaptable to the rapidly changing world would be a great step to the right direction. The 21st century is a technology-driven society, and for these youth to remain relevant they need to equipped with computer literacy skills. This needs to begin at the early stages of their education lives, so that they become well conversant and compliant with ICT skills.

In the lower classes, computers should be introduced as teaching aids so as to make classes enjoyable as well to as enhance student understanding that helps to build on their intellectual capacities. Furthermore, a revision to the curriculum to not only include digital literacy skills but also coding lessons at much earlier stages helps to develop competitive and innovative problem solvers of the future generation. These traits should be nurtured by introducing and putting emphasis on practical lessons, where students are allowed to actualise their innovative thoughts. Encouraging annual symposiums in primary schools will create awareness of young innovative minds and their innovations, and catalyse favourable competitions.

As they transition to high school, students should be introduced to internet research and social marketing lessons at controlled levels. With these resources, self-study becomes so much easier as they are exposed to a vast landscape of information that helps them with class work and personal development as well. Information is power! When they have information about reproductive health, entrepreneurship, education amongst others coupled with a dose of mentorship, they will become very successful young adults.

When this cohort of youth enters the world of work, they are confident, highly knowledgeable and skilled to take up opportunities both in formal and informal sectors across the world, and also achieve their life goals as they advance on their different career pathways.

Technology and innovation should be what drives the Sub-Saharan region forward. The youth are our future, and indispensable partners in this development process. It is time to invest on the Sub-Saharan youth for a brighter and better economic future.

Photo credit: SFU – University Communications Telly.SIAT.SFU via photopin (license)

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About meI am a confident and articulate graduate who enjoys engagement in journalism clubs and associations.  Young yet mature; I am interested in inculcating my skills in conflict management in regards to politics, ethnic and religious inspired conflicts.

I believe our future generations have a right to live in a peaceful environment that allows for holistic development. Currently I am a blogger and a volunteer at community based organisations.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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