Developing countries are characterized by high rates of economic vulnerability, low life expectancy rates, low income per capita, high illiteracy levels and many other unpleasant features. The fertility rate of most African women due to several factors like early marriages does not help matters as population growth rate increases at alarming rates thereby exerting pressure on resources. However, as the population increases, the hardships also increase and there is always need to make things better for everyone in such a society.
As firstly pointed out, low life expectancy threatens foundations of any society no matter how strong the foundation might be. This scenario requires the youth to take up leadership and decision-making position mantles. There is need for active young people to compensate the losses.
It is heartrending to note that the youth are the most vulnerable groups in such societies in spite of the fact that the youth are always energetic and capable of achieving a lot in the society. The youth are capable only that they have not been given a chance to prove their competence.
For instance, Malawi has an agrarian driven economy and due to a lack of mechanization in most of our local farms, our system of farming is labour intensive. This is where strong and energetic people- the youth come in handy to provide the necessary effort. Furthermore, commercial farming greatly needs safe keeping of records and accounts. This is also a task that is very suitable to young people who are fresh and committed.
It is reported that “The great bulk of today’s 1.2 billion youth—nearly 90 percent—are in developing countries and that in the next few decades; these young people will most likely continue the current trend of moving from rural areas to cities in search of education as well as training opportunities, gainful employment and adequate health care services.”
Thus, investing resources in young people is very necessary for their personal as well as societal development. There is need to set priorities right by investing in health care, education, agricultural development, and entrepreneurship and the youth population will be an opportunity for development and change.
The issue here is not about having a youth population that will only bring challenges to a country by demanding term jobs, health care services, schools and training institutions. Rather, it is about having a population of youth that is protected from a lot of challenges that affect their productivity. We can also achieve this by reducing the prevalence rate of early childbearing by keeping young girls in school and changing community norms and national policies about marriage age.
As the UN’s Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon said that “We must fulfil our obligations to youth by asking Governments to consider the contributions of young persons on all policies affecting them. Governments must honour this commitment. They must increase the financial, education and technical support made available to young people…It is high time that we stopped viewing our young people as part of the problem and started cultivating their promise and potential.”
We need to embrace the idea that for a country to develop, the consideration and involvement of young people is very crucial. Integration of the youth, who are potential agents of change, in development initiatives will help societies to realise and achieve positive change.
Youth will be part of our society and we will continue to have them forming a greater part of our society more than other groups. All we need is to work on how we can benefit from their strength and energy by assisting them to unearth the potential they have.
We need to have the lens to view the youth population as:
- important actors in conflict prevention, peace building and post-conflict processes;
- important actors in the protection, preservation and improvement of the environment
- promoters of gender equality in all aspects of society
- pioneers of eliminating violence against girls and young women
- first line defence in the fight against AIDS through education and employment opportunities
A youthful population also has the drivers of innovation because “young researchers are more flexible, more inquisitive and full of zeal; hence they are easy to work with and drive the economy forward.”