By Ndidi Chukwu
As the largest population in any society, youths are critical actors in the development of any nation, as agents of change with a great potential to build a prosperous nation. A youth friendly nation is one which has a favourable policy environment where youth related programs are prioritized with the objective of achieving a better future for the next generation.
The might of most developed countries is seen by their youth friendly programs and innovations the youths are able to explore in such favourable environment. African countries in the last three decades have also made efforts to improve youths engagement in policy formulation, as well as life transforming programs. How much impact have these efforts made on African Youths towards development is a question that African leaders would need to deliberate critically on.
Perhaps the strategies adopted in Africa are not speaking to the needs of its youths and thus the shortfall in youth’s participation and involvement in development. African countries have similar challenge in the number of its youths involved in politics, agricultural development, health, education, security to list a few sector.
In health care for instance, involvement of African Youths in Health financing advocacy could go a long way to boost government interest to fund and budget appropriately for Health. African Youths have made good use of various platforms to demand for inclusion in policy formulation for social justice, a good understanding of its health care rights will go a long way to improve interest in Health financing advocacy.
In Nigeria, youths like Margaret Bolaji, Family Planning Reference Group Youth Representative at various fora has encouraged African leaders to make room for the voices of young people from a variety of backgrounds especially the poorest and marginalized and design health and family planning solutions with young people rather than for young
people in strengthening young people friendly centres that promote growth, development, protection and participation.
Astute youth advocate for Sustainable Immunization Financing in Nigeria, Diana Edema Sillo who is the Program officer for Community Health and Research Initiative (CHR) believes that Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Africa can begin by raising and training young people to do advocacy for healthcare financing.
At the April 2017 African Vaccination Week Youth sensitization on Immunization advocacy supported and funded by CHR, Diana called on African Youths to take the lead and demand for funds for vaccines. CHR has also developed a youth club and trained Nigerian youths in Health financing advocacy.
As the world commemorates International Youth Day 2017 on August 12, which is dedicated to celebrating young people’s contributions to conflict prevention and transformation as well as inclusion, social justice, and sustainable peace.
African leaders are encouraged to see the potentials in their youths involve them at every policy formulation process bearing in mind that the current generation of youths are the largest in history and young people often comprise the majority in countries marked by armed conflict or unrest, therefore considering the needs and aspirations of
youth in matters of peace and security as well as other sectors is a demographic imperative which could bring about the desired transformation for a sustainable development.
Existing youth organizations should critically look at the important role youths can play in health development, as well as in deterring and resolving conflicts, as they are the key constituents in ensuring the success of both peacekeeping and peace building efforts in line with the 2017 theme.
Summarily, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development committed to fostering peaceful and inclusive societies and affirmed that “sustainable development cannot be realized without peace and security.”
Goal 16 aims to ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels. To achieve these goals in Africa, youths must be included and allowed to participate in decision making especially in Health policy formulation and implementation. Africa’s Young people’s inclusion in the health agenda and in society more broadly, is key to building and sustaining peace and development.
The process of social inclusion for youth, including participation in decision-making as well as access to quality education, healthcare and basic services promotes their role as active contributors to society and affords young people with opportunities to reach their potential and achieve their goals.
When youth are excluded from political, economic and social spheres and processes, it can be a risk factor for violence and violent forms of conflict, and this is a major setback to development. Therefore, identifying and addressing the social exclusion of young people is a precondition for sustaining peace and development.