Africa’s young population has been booming for decades and is building to a crescendo. A tectonic shift is now underway, and this major demographic change will transform the international order and balance of power in our multilateral systems.
More than 60% of the continent’s population is under the age of 25, and they are giving voice and urgency to a wide range of issues — from clean energy and sustainable growth to technology and health innovations. Their views and recommendations will inform global processes like the United Nations Summit of the Future next year — including the Pact for the Future — and structures like the World Bank and the World Trade Organization to help spur investments, address debt crises, and foster public-private collaborations for young countries.
By 2100, Africa will be home to almost half of the world’s young people, and the influence of these young changemakers will be felt far and wide. Already, young people across Africa have advanced initiatives that prioritize educational equality, youth representation in government, and accessible technology.
And they can bring about huge change when their power is unleashed, for instance, 24-year-old Kenyan Faridah Ally, who witnessed the pervasive denial of girls’ education during the pandemic, built an organization to collect and distribute learning materials and other vital supplies to help girls keep up with their studies.
In Nigeria, a group of young people led a constitutional reform lowering the eligibility age to run for political office through the #NotTooYoungToRun movement, a testament to young people’s ability to rewire institutions. And in Sierra Leone, the Children’s Forum Network worked to unite young people after the Civil War, leading the nation’s healing and transformation, while Purposeful, born during the Ebola crisis, lends focus to magnifying girls’ activism on a global scale and has amassed more than $30 million in funding.
Young people in Africa also hold the ability to transform economies, both on the continent and worldwide. They are making an incredible financial impact: African start-ups, the majority of which are youth-led, raised over $3.3 billion in funding last year, up 55% from the year before.
This is the power of young people: relentless, bold, and unafraid to shake up the status quo. But we must do more to help them continue to harness it.
An engaged and entrepreneurial youth population is not by itself a golden ticket to prosperity. The Open Society Foundations’ 2023 Barometer, and other surveys like the 2022 Africa Youth Survey and Afrobarometer, underline young Africans’ growing mistrust in institutions and anxiety about their future — with concerns ranging from dwindling job opportunities to daunting environmental challenges. The success of Africa’s youth and enabling this younger generation to reach their potential requires significant engagement and investment.
The African Union’s Agenda 2063 is a primary vehicle for investment in Africa’s young people — a transformational blueprint for a better future designed by Africans, for Africa. By enacting global frameworks like the AU Agenda and the U.N.’s Agenda 2030, we will prioritize young people across Africa’s access to education, health, technology, and employment opportunities. Equipping these young people with the tools they need will allow them to make more of the incredible progress we have seen from them time and again.
What we need right now is an opportunity to unite the world’s youth-led and youth-focused organizations already making a difference in the lives of so many. Elevating African changemakers through these channels is an essential step in charting a course toward a future that accelerates investment in young people and the young countries they call home.
One example of that in practice is the Unlock the Future coalition. Hosted by the U.N. Foundation, this initiative is uniting organizations committed to working with and for young people to make a difference in the lives of nearly one billion people across the globe.
The paths we’ve traveled, from Kenya, Sierra Leone, and Zimbabwe, converge and lead to a singular, powerful conclusion: Africa’s youth are not just the future — they are the now. We have seen them drive change, innovate, and emerge as the soul of the continent.
They are the architects of change, the pioneers of innovation, and the promise of Africa’s future poised to reshape the world. Investment in the AU’s Agenda 2063 and the U.N.’s Agenda 2030 is vital to positioning young people as drivers of Africa’s renaissance.
It is incumbent upon leaders, policymakers, and investors across sectors to unlock the funding, access, and opportunities they need to establish a better, more prosperous future for Africa — and the world.