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EurAsiaReview.com: The Horn Of Africa States: Empowering The Region’s Youth – OpEd

Posted by: Berhane Habtemariam

Date: Tuesday, 11 June 2024

By

According to UNESCO, the world is home to the largest population of young people ever in history. They are reported to be above 1.2 billion and the number is still growing. Some ninety per cent of this population is in the developing world and this includes the Horn of Africa States region, where over seventy percent of its population of some 216 million people (i.e.151 million) are of youthful age of under thirty years. The region thus represents ownership of about 12.5% of the world’s youth population which reflects not only a large market but a large labor force. This is a significant asset and the best asset any region could have in the dynamic world of today, where geopolitical shifts, economic uncertainties and technological advancements and other challenges shape realities.

In the Horn of Africa States region, it would appear that the large youth population is not used the proper way they should have been – in production and economic development but in death and destruction and hence not in wealth creation but in its demolition. This does not only affect the region in these present times but also its future as the lives of those who may have contributed to the further growth of the region in many aspects are cut down in wars, hunger, migration and exodus and death in distant lands and seas.

We address in this article the role of youth and hence potential in the region in the hope some common sense would spring up in the minds of the leadership of the region, both the ruling and in the opposition.

It is not a safe world, but then it was never a safe world and each generation had to deal with the problems it had to face in the past as we have to deal with those of today and those of tomorrow will deal with theirs as they come. Across the globe there was and always will be crises which people have to deal with. It is the how part that is important which is of concern to us in the present circumstances of the region.

The crises of the past appear to have been those of the region’s, which was compounded by the interferences of others. They included not only the desire but the active attempts of Somalia to bring all Somalis under one flag and in one country and the resistance of other countries like Ethiopia to these Somali travails and works. It involved the liberation of Djibouti from the French and liberation of Eritrea from Ethiopia. They involved the liberation wars of South Sudanese from the mother country, Sudan. Those disputes of old are no longer of major concerns at present. They seem to have been replaced by intra-state civil strives in almost all the countries of the region, where clans and tribes are competing for power within each state. This gives opportunities to the foreigner again to interfere in the region through various shades and forms.

On the one hand, foreigners come through provision of meagre assistance that does not really cure the basic problem but only helps alleviate it for only ever shorter whiles, but which helps the continuation of the use of the youthful population of the region in the wrong unproductive activities of wars, civil strives and may be in some cases, sending them away through trafficking to other parts of the world, mostly the Arabian Gulf to do meager and menial jobs.

It is the unfortunate story of the region’s leadership becoming individualistic using tribe and clan ownership as the main platform propelling them to the forefront and this only exasperates the fate of the growing youthful population of the region, which sees no future over the horizon. No wonder they get involved in the civil wars and the mass exodus out of the region. The conflicts of Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and the undeclared but ongoing resistance to the long serving leaders of both Eritrea and Djibouti are clear evidence that the youthful population of the region is exposed to continuous dangers.

This should not be the case and the region’s leadership should perhaps revisit their roles and instead of internationalizing the region’s dilemmas, handle it regionally through common platforms with the aim of calming down the region and making the rule of law the bedrock of society, which should start with them obeying the laws of the land and not abusing them for their personal gains.

The region boasts of multiple natural assets including its geostrategic geographical location which itself presents a potentially rich resource base. The region is fertile, large enough and has an enormous marine space which it can exploit for its own ends. Exploiting these resources and using its youthful population should be the way of the region instead of the continuing conflicts, which impacts not only the processes of educating them or the provision of efficient healthcare services and other developmental activities.

The region in the past depended on itself, feeding itself, providing its healthcare systems and fabricating its own tools. Governance and education should only have helped develop these processes and innovated them. However, it appears, the region’s youth were wrongly channeled to make them highly educated clerks all in offices and everyone wanting to mange something somewhere.

It is time recognize that education programs to be re-imagined nurturing entrepreneurial spirits that would be beneficial to the societies of the region as they were in the past. The youth should be educated to become business entrepreneurs, farmers, fishermen and polytechnical people able to produce food and tools and equipment. It is how societies change and how the youth of the region could be moved away from the tribal/clan warfare that pseudo-politicians use and exploit.

The region should not ignore the dynamism of youth and in particular with respect to the current mobility of youth and their roles in moving forward their creative nature. The role of youth in mobile and internet penetration in the region is remarkable and it does appear they will play significant roles in the future of the region. Technology is now changing and improving on how one thinks of agriculture, fishing, artisanal works and industries. The large bulging youth population of the region would be useful in this regard and they should be deployed accordingly and not as fuel for the meaningless tribal/clan-based wars of the region.

Many believe that industrialization is the best way forward. But other sectors of the economy of the region including finance and banking, commerce, agriculture, mining, tourism, transportation and travel, logistics, and others are all equally important if the region has to move forward. This would, of course, need the large youthful population of the region being deployed correctly after providing the right education and skills and the right incentives with them. 

At present many seem to being brainwashed with the tribe/clan virus, which sees no way out other than one’s tribe/clan at the top. This is an impossible dream which the leadership of the region both ruling and opposition should refrain from. 

Empowering the youth will encourage them to believe in themselves and their capabilities and not be swayed by the diseased opinions of others. They would go after their dreams of becoming somebodies in life as scientists, engineers, mathematicians, astronauts, accountants, bankers, great businesspeople, and indeed, whatever they want and wish to be. The region’s politicians should be kind enough not to mow the youth of the region like grass in their continuing conflicts.

 

Dr. Suleiman Walhad

   *Dr. Suleiman Walhad writes on the Horn of Africa economies and politics. He can be reached at suleimanwalhad@


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