A pandemic of hope: African youth walking a golden path off a crisis

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Kevin Lunzalu is the 2021 Blog4Dev winner from Kenya. Kevin Lunzalu is the 2021 Blog4Dev winner from Kenya.

This is one of 38 winning blogs from the 2021 Blog4Dev competition, the World Bank Africa annual writing contest, inviting young people to weigh in on a topic critical to their country’s economic development. Blog4Dev winners responded to the question: How can young people work with their governments and civil society organizations to respond to the impact of COVID-19 and build a stronger post-pandemic economic and social system?

Africa's future largely depends on the extent to which it will involve its youth in the quest to build back better from the current pandemic. The continent's young population represents much-needed hope that can be banked upon by governments and civil society. The following paradigm shifts will be critical for Africa to achieve the desired transformational change:

1. Innovation hubs for youth to co-create and upscale ideas that solve current and foreseen challenges. COVID-19 (coronavirus) has exposed the acute vulnerability of the African socio-economic fabric in absorbing abrupt shocks caused by unexpected crises. Young Africans have proven that they can act within a limited time scale to devise immediate solutions to prevailing challenges. Throughout Africa, youth have invented forecasting tools, mobile applications, ventilators, protective gear, sanitization stations, hospital beds, and other responses to the pandemic. To build on this important foundation, youth can work with governments and civil society to inform the realization of regional innovation hubs across Africa. Access to youth innovation hubs could incubate, accelerate, and attract funding to implement unique ideas. It would also fasten response to existing socio-economic challenges, build the resilience of countries, empower youth economically, and enhance Africa's preparedness for future disruptions.

2. Decent employment, business, and education opportunities for youth. The restart button presented by the COVID-19 pandemic is an exclusive chance for youth to hold intergenerational roundtable dialogues with governments and CSOs and discuss the unique challenges that young Africans face in accessing meaningful employment, business, and education. The outcomes will help stakeholders prioritize support for young entrepreneurs, jobs for young graduates, paid internships, affordable quality education that adapts quickly to changes in the society, and adoption of modern technological infrastructure will prove to be critical in building back better.

3. Support best youth-led practices in healthcare, agriculture, climate action, and industrialization. To build back sustainably, young Africans need to work closely with governments and civil society to incorporate youth ideas into the continent's policy-backed incentives and strategic plans for the main sectors. The new development cycle should see governments and CSOs map out and support the best youth-led initiatives that enhance the resilience of the continent's healthcare systems, improve food systems, mitigate climate change, and foster sustainable industrial growth.

4. Foster good governance, inclusivity, peace, and political stability. Youth should help governments and CSOs to revise their action strategies and ensure the deliberate inclusion of youth in discussions regarding integrity, national values, and leadership. Social vices such as crime and drug abuse are often a manifestation of the frustration of youth due to inter-generational inequalities and marginalization. Young Africans are ready to work with governments and civil society to enact structures that will ensure bottom-up implementation frameworks, transparency, and accountability. Such approaches will help address recurrent challenges like corruption, civil unrest, and the seclusion of indigenous people and local communities in decision-making platforms.

Kevin Lunzaluis the 2021 Blog4Dev winner from Kenya. See the full list of 2021 Blog4Dev winners here, and read their blog posts.


Kevin Lunzalu

Winner of the 2021 Blog4Dev competition for Kenya.

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