Youth Development in Ghana: A Brief Analysis

Ghanaian youth

The Youth represents a significant proportion of Ghana’s population, with about 60% of the population under the age of 25 and 35% between ages 15 and 35 (according to the 2010 Population and Housing Census). The youth constitute a unique group often considered one of the most vulnerable groups within the Ghanaian social fabric, and at the same time regarded as the greatest source of hope for the nation’s future. Mobilizing the creativity and passion of youth, and recognising the unique perspective of youth on their current and future needs have become national and international priorities.

Again, Youth Participation in governance of our country is a fundamental human right enshrined in the 1992 Republican Constitution of Ghana, the African Youth Charter, African Union Agenda 2063, the 2030 Global Goals and many more treaties and conventions that Ghana has duly ratified. This can only be meaningfully attained through a coherent and widely accepted strategy which is in line with national and international youth conventions and protocols on development. Ghana’s efforts towards harnessing the demographic dividend requires the implementation of effective, sustainable and complementary youth development interventions strategically designed to position the youth to develop their full potential and contribute to both national and global development. More so, this is especially critical, as we complete the first half of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the prevailing circumstances where the coronavirus pandemic is wreaking havoc on countries and humanity as a whole.

With the adoption of Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, world leaders and global actors have shown utmost devotion to achieving 17 ambitious Sustainable Development Goals so as to ensure sustainable development for people and the planet as well as prosperity. The 2030 Agenda recognizes young people as a vital stakeholder and seeks to address the prevailing challenges confronting young people all over the world. Underpinned by the fundamental principle of Leaving No One Behind, the 2030 Global Goals tasks leadership at all levels to provide the needed safe spaces where young people, among others can enjoy the full realization of their rights and competences. This is further emphasized in the UN Youth Strategy (Youth 2030) which envisions a world that recognizes young people’s agency, resilience and positive contributions as agents of change and calls for the engagement and participation of the youth in the implementation, review and follow-up of the 2030 Agenda and other relevant global agendas and frameworks.

The Challenging Issues

The current generation of young people according to statistics constitutes the largest the world has ever witnessed. One in every three people alive today is under the age of thirty and around ninety percent (90%) of young people are living in developing countries, mainly in Asia and Africa, giving rise to a ‘youth bulge’ as young people forms a larger and growing proportion of the population. This depicts a challenge as well as an opportunity for governments in their formulation of development policies. The situation for Ghana is not different. About 60% of our current population constitutes people within the youth bracket. The youthfulness of Ghana’s population could have a negative impact when the youth are not well-equipped with skills to be gainfully employed and empowered to contribute to national development.

Undeniably, the challenges confronting the bulging youthful population of Ghana are myriad and diverse, they include among others: unemployment, health & wellbeing, inadequate access to quality education, poverty, crime, increased exposure to risky lifestyles and behaviours, violence and conflicts, as well as low civic and political participation (Overview of Youth Development in Ghana, 2021, by the Commonwealth Secretariat). The above issues differ among groups relative to their gender, level of education, health status, geographical location and sometimes ethnicity among others. However, the youthful population size, energy, dynamism, enthusiasm, innovation and drive of Ghanaian youth constitute assets that ought to be harnessed for sustainable development with fit for purpose policies that adequately respond to these debilitating challenges confronting them.

Notwithstanding the bold attempts by government in surmounting these challenges such as the establishment of the Youth Employment Agency, the National Entrepreneurial and Innovation Programme, the enhanced mandate of the Ghana Enterprises Agency, You-Start as well as the Nation Builders Corps and the Free Senior High School Education, there is the need for a well-developed, comprehensive and effective youth development policy to deal with the issues facing this large and growing segment of the Ghanaian population. 

It is welcoming that Government has resolved to introduce the You-Start Programme that will invest in the entrepreneurial talents of young people and building of skilled population as a strategy to tackle the growing problem of youth unemployment. Over the years, the lack of bold investments in the youth, such as the You-Start Initiative, is what has exposed us to the current sorry state where development gains seem to have reversed. The right investments in youth will empower them to make choices that are good for themselves, their communities and also for the world. 

In response to the bulging youth population, there ought to be practical policy initiatives geared towards addressing the continuous challenges the youth experience. We have the opportunity to fully develop the potential of our youth so that they can contribute effectively to the world’s development agenda. This conviction can only happen if there is commitment by duty bearers to prioritise youth development and to empower and anchor the youth to become strong and accountable leaders and to also serve as an asset for development in the global arena.

To Be Continued…

Author: Muhammed Alhassan Yakubu ([email protected]

The Writer is the Executive Director of the Centre for Social Advocacy and Development (CENSAD) and Key Member of the Skills Development Committee (SDC) of the Junior Chamber Interrnational, JCI headquartered at Chesterfield in St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

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