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Untitled, by Cian Oba Smith

Bridging the gap between aid and development

Stephen Yeboah | 25 October 2011

Establishing the roles of young people in developing economies

The gap that has developed between aid and development has necessitated the use of the perverse term ‘aid ineffectiveness’. Aid ineffectiveness is not the intended object of contemporary aid. Aid is given to accelerate development and to clamp down on extreme poverty and hunger. When aid given does not achieve the intended results it means that there is something wrong with the whole architecture of aid. The Paris Declaration (2005) and the Accra Agenda for Action (2008) set out strategies to bridge this gap to make aid contribute more to economic growth and development. Whether or not the gap is being narrowed remains a contentious question. What remains important however is that the gap still poses challenges to global development aspirations.

Let’s limit the case to Africa and sub-Saharan Africa to be precise. Even with increased aid the region is ostensibly witnessing no significant breakthrough. The dimension that has delinked aid from development is the blatant neglect of the welfare of youths across the globe, especially in developing economies. Youths are catalysts for change. Development aspirations not premised on young people have suffered profound setbacks. Statistics from the International Labour Organization indicate that the world population today counts an estimated 1.2 billion people between the ages of 15 to 24. Of this, about 87 per cent of these young people live in countries with developing economies. According to the United Nations, 200 million people are in the age range 15 to 24, comprising more than 20 per cent of the population of Africa.

It is worrying that development policies in sub-Saharan Africa do not favour the development and empowerment of youth. Youths have lost the leverage as agents of change in several sub-Saharan African economies. Today, young people are voiceless and at best rendered vulnerable. Young people lack the capacity to protect even their own rights. Right from primary school to university, the enabling environment to empower young people is either non-existing or is poor. Governments in countries in sub-Saharan Africa have not outlined any blueprint to tap the energies of young people. Their energies are directed at activities that pose serious challenges to economic growth including wars and social vices.

Development is given the boost when policies aim at empowering young people. Empowered young people demand the right leadership in their countries. They are best able to hold leaders to account. The reason for increased levels of corruption in sub-Saharan Africa is because the youth are either tamed by the existing culture of the land or unfavourable policies.

Strategies toward ensuring quality education among children and youth have not been the best. It goes without saying that governments in sub-Saharan Africa have to formulate comprehensive youth development agendas that unearth the potentials and skills of young people. To this end, modalities of education should receive a facelift. Leadership skills should be inculcated into the youth to engender hope in the governance of the African continent. Again, governments – toward increasing investments – should partner the private sector to drive education to a higher level. With the world racing against time to achieve all the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, engaging the skills and energies of the youth remains the only possible option.

The 4th High Level on Aid Effectiveness at Busan should put youth empowerment and leadership in developing countries high. Young people are future leaders. They need to be empowered to bring leadership in the African continent back on track. I would propose that aid should be disbursed in a manner that will acknowledge and establish the roles of young people in developing economies and sub-Saharan Africa to be precise.

Photo credit main picture: Untitled, by Cian Oba Smith