AfricaYouth is a broad subject, that has sparked a lot of discussion, especially amongst youth movements worldwide (the Arab Spring, the « outraged » in Europe, and demonstrations against abuses perpetrated by African leaders, etc.). However, this article shall focus only on the role young people are supposed to play. 

As a matter of fact, young people have been considered as a marginalized category for a long time, but today they are being targeted. And this is happening not only because of the enormous potential they represent and the self-confidence they seem to have, but also because they are able to change the world for the better and, unfortunately, also for the worse. Experts believe that many young people try to enhance their potential, but do not always succeed. When opportunities are lacking, their ambition turns to frustration, which is then exploited by groups who are working to promote their own agenda such as politicians, extremists, drug cartels, armed groups, etc. Analysts believe that young people are vulnerable to indoctrination, especially because they lack experience and historically-conscious knowledge. 

However, young people should not be considered as victims who need to be protected, or as future leaders, as they are often viewed by decision makers, but rather as real players who need to have the necessary tools in order to become the protagonists of universal brotherhood. In this regard, unlike those who believe young people are a threat or vulnerable individuals who need protection, young people’s drive to help or give meaning to their lives takes priority over their wish to do bad or seek protection in their conscience, according to M. Scott Atran, an anthropologist from the Paris-based National Research Center. In this situation, channeling young people’s energy and idealism is more than just a necessity, in order to guide them towards a true ideal which is to build a more brotherly world. 

When we say ‘guide’ we mean a new commitment on the part of States, first of all, but also by all social categories (families, religious communities, associations, NGOs, international organizations, etc.) to support young people, who have more energy, in order to build a more just world. This commitment must have a universal scope, leaving each country or region the freedom to choose the necessary tools and means to support young people. In this framework, education and training must hold a privileged place in accompanying young people along their path, as Nelson Mandela used to say often : «Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world».  In Europe, Asia, America or Africa, at different moments in time, a generation of leaders was able to testify to what extent young people could change history positively or negatively. 

If we take Africa, for instance, we might say that the notion of youth cannot be limited to a specific age-based category of people, because they do not make up a homogenous monolith but rather a pluralistic variety, considering the different factors that come into play such as gender, rural or urban contexts, social and economic status, education levels, etc. 

As a matter of fact, according to the 2012 ADB report, Africa had the youngest population in the world with 200 million people aged between 15 and 24, and the forecast was that this figure could double by 2045 ; while a study conducted by the World Bank, during the same year, revealed that young people in Africa accounted for 60% of all African unemployed. In this respect, the demographic weight of young people is a clue to the important role young Africans play in order to build an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, ruled by its own citizens, to become a dynamic force on the international scene according to the African Union vision expressed in its 2063 Agenda. 

Young leaders in the 1960s could be role models for African youth.  Actually, the wish to free their parents from colonial domination prompted young African leaders to actively participate in the fight against colonialism. In some cases, their commitment and determination implied a huge price for them to pay (prison, torture, murders, etc.) in the interest of their country or continent broadly speaking, as we can glean from excerpts taken from Nelson Mandela’s Speech: «I hold dear an ideal of a free and democratic society where everybody will live in peace and harmony and have equal opportunities. It is an ideal I hope to live for and accomplish. But, if necessary, it is an ideal for which I am ready to die». 

Unfortunately, although young people spearheaded independence and social mobilization movements in the 1960s and 70s in order to free the continent from the colonial yoke, at the beginning of the 1990s most African youths emerged in the public arena as a category which, in the following decades, became a growing social force which led to a situation of ambiguity that built and destroyed African society. In various African countries, young people are a multi-faceted group when they participate in political and social life: they could be considered as an «emerging influence» as well as people «overwhelmed by power»; they can be targeted and victims, exploited and abused, but they can also be fighters, activists, and entrepreneurs, or even rebels, outlaws, and criminals. Quite often, they play all these roles at the same time. 

Under these circumstances, turning the threat posed by African youth into an opportunity for the continent is a priority for Africa, and each African must take responsibility for this depending on their individual means. In order for Africa to prosper, African youths play a central role since they are the majority of the African population. Hence Pope Francis’ urging to young people worldwide when he reminds us that «Mankind needs men and women, and especially young people like you, who do not want to live their lives half way».

In this framework, the commitment to participatory citizenship must be seen by African and global youths as the response to a calling to follow Mandela’s example when he spoke about «an ideal for which I am ready to die» . In this regard, in order to respond to the calling to be active citizens, young people in Africa and elsewhere   must figure out what the common good means for their people, and understand the needs and prices to be paid, which vary between the different contexts; but mostly, they must think about their personal strengths and weaknesses before responding to that calling, which indeed is their calling but requires self-giving. The results of their commitment will not depend only on their will as young people, but on the entire human community joining forces together (families, religious communities, villages, the State, NGOs, international organizations, etc.). With different words, Pope Francis summarized the role global youths must play, including Africans, during the WYD which took place in Brazil:  «The times we live in do not call for young “couch potatoes”, but for young people with shoes, or better, boots laced. The times we live in require only active players on the field, and there is no room for those who sit on the bench. Today’s world demands that you be a protagonist of history because life is always beautiful when we choose to live it fully.» 

          Promoting Participatory Citizenship: «African Youths Held Hostage»                        

Youth is a broad subject, that has sparked a lot of discussion, especially amongst youth movements worldwide (the Arab Spring, the « outraged » in Europe, and demonstrations against abuses perpetrated by African leaders, etc.). However, this article shall focus only on the role young people are supposed to play.

As a matter of fact, young people have been considered as a marginalized category for a long time, but today they are being targeted. And this is happening not only because of the enormous potential they represent and the self-confidence they seem to have, but also because they are able to change the world for the better and, unfortunately, also for the worse. Experts believe that many young people try to enhance their potential, but do not always succeed. When opportunities are lacking, their ambition turns to frustration, which is then exploited by groups who are working to promote their own agenda such as politicians, extremists, drug cartels, armed groups, etc. Analysts believe that young people are vulnerable to indoctrination, especially because they lack experience and historically-conscious knowledge.

However, young people should not be considered as victims who need to be protected, or as future leaders, as they are often viewed by decision makers, but rather as real players who need to have the necessary tools in order to become the protagonists of universal brotherhood. In this regard, unlike those who believe young people are a threat or vulnerable individuals who need protection, young people’s drive to help or give meaning to their lives takes priority over their wish to do bad or seek protection in their conscience, according to M. Scott Atran, an anthropologist from the Paris-based National Research Center. In this situation, channeling young people’s energy and idealism is more than just a necessity, in order to guide them towards a true ideal which is to build a more brotherly world.

When we say ‘guide’ we mean a new commitment on the part of States, first of all, but also by all social categories (families, religious communities, associations, NGOs, international organizations, etc.) to support young people, who have more energy, in order to build a more just world. This commitment must have a universal scope, leaving each country or region the freedom to choose the necessary tools and means to support young people. In this framework, education and training must hold a privileged place in accompanying young people along their path, as Nelson Mandela used to say often : «Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world».  In Europe, Asia, America or Africa, at different moments in time, a generation of leaders was able to testify to what extent young people could change history positively or negatively.

If we take Africa, for instance, we might say that the notion of youth cannot be limited to a specific age-based category of people, because they do not make up a homogenous monolith but rather a pluralistic variety, considering the different factors that come into play such as gender, rural or urban contexts, social and economic status, education levels, etc.

As a matter of fact, according to the 2012 ADB report, Africa had the youngest population in the world with 200 million people aged between 15 and 24, and the forecast was that this figure could double by 2045 ; while a study conducted by the World Bank, during the same year, revealed that young people in Africa accounted for 60% of all African unemployed. In this respect, the demographic weight of young people is a clue to the important role young Africans play in order to build an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, ruled by its own citizens, to become a dynamic force on the international scene according to the African Union vision expressed in its 2063 Agenda.

Young leaders in the 1960s could be role models for African youth.  Actually, the wish to free their parents from colonial domination prompted young African leaders to actively participate in the fight against colonialism. In some cases, their commitment and determination implied a huge price for them to pay (prison, torture, murders, etc.) in the interest of their country or continent broadly speaking, as we can glean from excerpts taken from Nelson Mandela’s Speech: «I hold dear an ideal of a free and democratic society where everybody will live in peace and harmony and have equal opportunities. It is an ideal I hope to live for and accomplish. But, if necessary, it is an ideal for which I am ready to die».

Unfortunately, although young people spearheaded independence and social mobilization movements in the 1960s and 70s in order to free the continent from the colonial yoke, at the beginning of the 1990s most African youths emerged in the public arena as a category which, in the following decades, became a growing social force which led to a situation of ambiguity that built and destroyed African society. In various African countries, young people are a multi-faceted group when they participate in political and social life: they could be considered as an «emerging influence» as well as people «overwhelmed by power»; they can be targeted and victims, exploited and abused, but they can also be fighters, activists, and entrepreneurs, or even rebels, outlaws, and criminals. Quite often, they play all these roles at the same time.

Under these circumstances, turning the threat posed by African youth into an opportunity for the continent is a priority for Africa, and each African must take responsibility for this depending on their individual means. In order for Africa to prosper, African youths play a central role since they are the majority of the African population. Hence Pope Francis’ urging to young people worldwide when he reminds us that «Mankind needs men and women, and especially young people like you, who do not want to live their lives half way».

In this framework, the commitment to participatory citizenship must be seen by African and global youths as the response to a calling to follow Mandela’s example when he spoke about «an ideal for which I am ready to die» . In this regard, in order to respond to the calling to be active citizens, young people in Africa and elsewhere   must figure out what the common good means for their people, and understand the needs and prices to be paid, which vary between the different contexts; but mostly, they must think about their personal strengths and weaknesses before responding to that calling, which indeed is their calling but requires self-giving. The results of their commitment will not depend only on their will as young people, but on the entire human community joining forces together (families, religious communities, villages, the State, NGOs, international organizations, etc.). With different words, Pope Francis summarized the role global youths must play, including Africans, during the WYD which took place in Brazil:  «The times we live in do not call for young “couch potatoes”, but for young people with shoes, or better, boots laced. The times we live in require only active players on the field, and there is no room for those who sit on the bench. Today’s world demands that you be a protagonist of history because life is always beautiful when we choose to live it fully.»      

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