Africa’s youth are confident in the future of their continent. These are the findings of a recent study that highlights the rise of Afro-optimism on the continent, despite persistent difficulties.
Commissioned by the Ichikowitz Foundation, the African Youth Survey covered 14 African countries, interviewing 4,200 young people aged between 18 and 24. The average age in Africa is under 20, according to the UN, making it 10 years younger than any other continent.
From these interviews, the investigators noted that while most were dissatisfied with the state of their country, almost half felt that the continent as a whole was doing better than it had decades before. Two-thirds of those interviewed even felt that they were witnessing a « transformation of the African century ».
« We found young people who refuse to shy away from Africa’s very real challenges, who are honest about what needs to be done and what their role should be in achieving it – and they are extremely keen to make a difference, » says Ivor Ichikowitz , President of the eponymous foundation.
For the majority of young people surveyed, new technologies, particularly the Internet, have been instrumental in transforming the continent, opening up opportunities beyond national borders and connecting young people across Africa and the rest of the world.
Taking realities into account
« Technology has connected Africans in many ways. Our grandparents were pan-Africanists and understood the struggle for Africa… but now, more than ever, you can read a real-time story of what’s happening in another country, » Rosebell Kagumire, editor-in-chief of the website African Feminism, commented for The Guardian.
However, she suggests that we should move away from simplistic definitions of Afro-optimism. For issues such as corruption, lack of jobs, peace and security remain major concerns for young Africans. « I don’t think anyone is in a state of permanent optimism, and certainly not young Africans (…) Even when people are optimistic, it depends on the realities, » she added.
Despite falling commodity prices and worrying political and security situations – particularly in Central Africa and the Sahel region – the continent boasts high-growth countries such as Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Senegal, to name but a few. This economic upturn is attracting African investors based on other continents, who are hoping to tap into Africa’s potential and contribute their share of knowledge, despite certain administrative delays and infrastructural shortcomings.