Briefing – Empowering Africa's youth: The new focus of EU-Africa cooperation – 14-11-2017

Empowering Africa’s youth: The new focus of EU-Africa cooperation

14-11-2017

Africa is the world’s youngest continent. With a rapidly growing population, Africa is forecast to make up for much of the population decline in other parts of the world in the coming decades. As a result, by 2050, one in four working-age persons in the world could be African. Today, over 60 % of Africans are under the age of 25. This demographic dynamism brings enormous challenges and opportunities. If well managed, it could drive an African economic miracle, which will shape the history of the 21st century. On the other hand, such unprecedented demographic growth does not come without specific challenges: the numerous children and young people must have their educational and health needs met, and enough jobs have to be created for the large cohorts entering the labour market every year. Large generations of young people who are politically excluded and deprived of economic opportunities can be an aggravating factor in conflicts, and can be prone to political and religious radicalisation. Instability and increasing poverty would also lead to mass migration to Europe and elsewhere. Europe cannot ignore the rising challenges and opportunities at its southern borders. Positive or negative spill-overs to Europe will be inevitable. It is therefore in the EU’s own interest to help the continent steer the demographic boom towards an economic boom, providing young people with opportunities, alleviating poverty and bringing lasting peace and stability. As the EU prepares to redefine its cooperation with Africa, the issue of youth is thus inescapable. The most urgent challenge for the EU is to channel foreign investment and development efforts towards Africa’s youngest populations, which are more than ever located in its most fragile states.

Africa is the world’s youngest continent. With a rapidly growing population, Africa is forecast to make up for much of the population decline in other parts of the world in the coming decades. As a result, by 2050, one in four working-age persons in the world could be African. Today, over 60 % of Africans are under the age of 25. This demographic dynamism brings enormous challenges and opportunities. If well managed, it could drive an African economic miracle, which will shape the history of the 21st century. On the other hand, such unprecedented demographic growth does not come without specific challenges: the numerous children and young people must have their educational and health needs met, and enough jobs have to be created for the large cohorts entering the labour market every year. Large generations of young people who are politically excluded and deprived of economic opportunities can be an aggravating factor in conflicts, and can be prone to political and religious radicalisation. Instability and increasing poverty would also lead to mass migration to Europe and elsewhere. Europe cannot ignore the rising challenges and opportunities at its southern borders. Positive or negative spill-overs to Europe will be inevitable. It is therefore in the EU’s own interest to help the continent steer the demographic boom towards an economic boom, providing young people with opportunities, alleviating poverty and bringing lasting peace and stability. As the EU prepares to redefine its cooperation with Africa, the issue of youth is thus inescapable. The most urgent challenge for the EU is to channel foreign investment and development efforts towards Africa’s youngest populations, which are more than ever located in its most fragile states.