On September 19, 2014, a Kenyan middle-aged woman was waiting for a bus at a stop in Nairobi. When the bus stopped, a group of men surrounded her, and started to strip and assault her for wearing a miniskirt in public. She screamed and cried out for help, but only a couple of brave people reached out and gave her clothes to cover herself.
This kind of sexual violence against women is not unprecedented in Kenya, but this time was different. The brutality of the violence was caught on camera and went viral online. On November 2014 alone, at least four such attacks were recorded across Kenya. The numbers for violence against women are disturbing: according to the Gallup World Poll conducted in 2010 in Kenya, 48.2 percent of women feared that a household member could be sexually harassed.
Africa is fortunate. Unlike more industrialized countries and even some industrializing countries like China, Africa is endowed with a much younger population. This could offer a tremendous comparative advantage in years to come that could propel the continent forward as a dynamic and productive engine of growth for the entire world. As elucidated by the UNFPA, “A window of economic and social growth occurs when the working age population becomes larger than people of non-working age…” making significantly higher growth rates possible as “the state faces fewer costs associated with children and the elderly”. But for Africa to realize this advantage, it needs two things: investment to create good jobs, and the young people with the skills to fill them.
According to the United Nations, persons between 15 and 24 comprise a fifth of the world’s population with the vast majority living in developing countries . But, at present in Africa, this cohort accounts for almost two thirds of the unemployed. While there has been no shortage of initiatives to tackle the youth “issue”, these have been at the social margin with mixed results. Policy reforms and donor support have included both supply and demand side activities, mostly directed to investment in public services complimentary to the private sector which, while necessary, have not been sufficient.