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…continuation Social Media as a development tool for youth: Why Africa is lacking behind? Part V


Theko Tlebere

The marvel of academic arguments is to aid young people understand issues through tangible evidence.

The past weeks have opened a lot of eyes in terms of writing pieces about youth development related matters, and this week I continue the series of explaining why limited data hinders social media usage as a tool for development.

I have not taken the literal route, but rather, I have looked at it from an academic perspective so that we are able to trial and test some of the arguments that will be raised.  It has further come to my realisation the dynamics of social media usage lead to a lot of fallacies that are not tangible.

Kwabena G.B and Mwangi S. K (2013) continues to say that the available data suggest that the youth population is large and growing, but there are limited data on gender and rural/urban distribution.

The emphasis that is put across to us as young people of Lesotho is that the Africa youth population is relatively large and is growing very fast.

The youth constitute about 20 percent of Africa’s population, thus, the absolute size of the continent’s youth population is slightly above 200 million.  Although Asia has the largest youth population in the world because of its large total population, Africa is the region with the highest youth population relative to its entire population.

What I am trying to bring home is the fact that because of Africa’s population being relatively young (about 42 percent of Africa’s population in 2010 was estimated to be below 15 years of age) and has a high fertility, research indicates that the youth population in Africa is projected to grow very fast and is likely to remain high for a long period of time, it further alludes to the fact that Africa is the only global region where the proportion of the youth population increased between 1990 and 2010. This youth bulge has consequences for the development of Africa, and unfortunately for Africa there is no clear distinction as to how to incorporate this much growing population into the documented frameworks for youth development.

One underlying issue that I want to bring into our arguments is the issue of youth unemployment whose rates are relatively high, with significant regional differences and potential adverse consequences, such as poverty, disease and migration.

The contribution of the relatively large youth population to Africa’s development depends on the quality of human capital they possess and crucially on whether they are gainfully employed as employees or have opportunities to establish their own businesses.

In theory, an increase in the youth population will reduce the real wage in an economy by increasing the labour supply, which in turn will increase employment, all things being equal. This, of course, may depend on the degree to which youth labour is complementary to, or substitutable for, existing (adult) labour or capital. But it must be highlighted therefore, to note, that it is not clear whether an increased youth labour supply may lead to increases in aggregate employment and output, all things being equal.

Because the contribution of youth to economic growth, and youth development in Africa depends on whether or not they are employed. Social media usage definitely needs employed youth; hence the unemployment rate in African states has a direct barring towards youth development tools seeing the light of the day. 

Bloom, Canning and Sevilla (2007) have argued that Africa’s economic growth in the near term will be determined by growth in the working-age population and improvements in institutional quality. These factors are crucially influenced by the quantity and quality of the youth population. Youth policy, especially regarding investment in human capital and the employment of these human resources, is therefore very important for the future development of Africa. Similarly, the World Bank (2007) has argued that institutions, infrastructure, innovation and a good investment climate are the key pillars of Africa’s long term growth. Given the potential contribution of youth in all these areas, the quality and size of the youth population is again critical for Africa’s development. This issue raised here put more and more emphasis to the underlying factors that lack in Africa in terms of attaining youth development, let alone having clear documented aspects of social media use as a developmental tool. The future is Now!

…to be continued

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