The Challenge of the Youth Bulge in Africa and the Middle East
Empowerment and Radicalisation
Surely one of the greatest challenges emanating from the African continent today is how to ensure that the burgeoning youth population, or “Youth Bulge”, can be directed towards becoming positive demographic dividends. The alternative, that such an explosion in the youth population caused by countries achieving reduced infant mortality while maintaining high birth rates, might worsen the socio-economic environment and even lead to radicalisation and violence, which is a scenario most would agree is to be avoided with the utmost of effort. For this reason, the NSD-S Hub embarked on a tri-paper project tackling three fundamental aspects of the Youth Bulge.
The NSD-S Hub and The Conflict Prevention and Early Warning Division of the African Union developed this paper to address the fact that, although the “Youth Bulge” is not a new phenomenon, over the past decade the youth population has demonstrated the power to reshape the political and security landscapes in Africa and the Middle East. The population growth, in combination with globalisation, and digitalisation in particular, has the potential for negative impact on the security environment in these regions and beyond. This is of growing importance since it has been assessed that by the end of the century the number of young people in Africa will be double the size of the entire European population.
The youth bulge is a multidimensional issue affecting every sphere of modern society. Failed aspirations of the well-educated young generation for successful transition have been exacerbated by increased unemployment and lack of favourable conditions for entrepreneurship. Moreover, the political exclusion of youths from decision-making processes increases their propensity towards radical views and violence. This creates space for Violent Extremist Organizations to exploit young people by providing them with a feeling of empowerment.
Nonetheless, with the right investments the potential of this young population could be harnessed to include it as an integral part of a sustainable future in Africa and the Middle East. Possible ways to reverse the negative trend could be to adapt educational systems and the development of professional skills to the changing, contemporary job market. Additionally, in terms of the political dimensions, efforts should be made to ensure a successful transition where young people are more included in the process of defining policies which shape their future.