Young Africans cautiously optimistic

Reshaping the continent’s future

27 July 2020 | Africa

Despite the threat of economic uncertainty, young people perceive Covid-19 as a catalyst to re-shape Africa’s future, according to the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s Now Generation Network Survey.
The report provides specific insights into the views of young people in areas including government responses to the crisis; access to adequate healthcare; the availability of reliable information; and the continent’s prospects for the future.
With a median age of 19.7 in 2020, Africa’s population is the youngest in the world. The continent’s population below the age of 35 represents almost a billion people. Given the pivotal role young people will play in Africa’s post-pandemic future, it has never been more important to understand their needs and expectations.
Drawing on views from 143 members of the Foundation’s Now Generation Network (NGN) – a group of young and mid-level career African citizens from various sectors and disciplines – covering 35 African countries, the report shares insights on how young Africans perceive this crisis, and highlights the following key findings:
• The economic uncertainty caused by Covid-19 is perceived to be the biggest threat to Africa’s future. This will require close attention from governments in months to come. 79% of respondents highlighted this as the greatest challenge their country now faces as a result of Covid-19, followed closely by unemployment, which 66% of respondents agreed as the second biggest challenge.
• Respondents showcased significant alarm around reduced civic participation. With nearly all respondents raising concerns around prohibitive government policies on Covid-19 negatively impacting human rights or restricting civil liberties.
• Africa’s younger population show increasing concern around crisis-generated gender-based issues. When asked about future policies to address the pandemic, respondents called for gendered economic and social policies.
• Over half of respondents would like to see improved health infrastructure. 58% noted that healthcare access and provision in their country is either mostly or completely ‘inadequate’. Over half (52%) of this group are not confident they can access healthcare when necessary during the pandemic.
• Information on Covid-19 is overwhelmingly perceived to be reliable. Sharing information is vital to tackling the pandemic in Africa. 90% of the young people surveyed believed they have access to reliable data. The survey shows that information is largely consumed online with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram being the primary source of information noted. Followed by TV, online news and messaging apps.
• Africa’s youth participate actively in the response to Covid-19. With 64% of respondents choosing to act in a collective group to support the response to the pandemic. Many of the respondents are engaged in Covid-19 activities such as making masks.
In a nutshell, young Africans remain cautiously optimistic for the future, with a majority considering the current crisis as an opportunity to alter the current growth model. 84% of those surveyed said that the crisis provides an opportunity to reform current policies. The results show confidence that Africa will overcome the challenges presented by Covid-19.
Chair and founder of the foundation, Mo Ibrahim, commented: “It is encouraging to see this cautious optimism from our young people who account for almost 60% of Africa’s population. I share their optimism and hope that, through sound governance, countries manage this crisis and move closer towards their social and economic goals. Decision making must include our continent’s greatest asset, its young people, now more than ever.”

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