The Exploding Youth Population in Sub-Saharan Africa
Today, youth between ages 15 and 24 constitute 20 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s total population. Their absolute count, nearing 200 million, makes them the largest generation the region has ever had to raise. To many population experts, this trend is an opportunity and a risk. That many of the youth are NEET (not in education, employment, or training) and that young adulthood is generally a time of risk-taking behavior raise many concerns. Experts fear that today’s large youth cohorts can be a catalyst for existing sources of violence.
To understand the range of policies that can foster the socioeconomic integration of this generation, Parfait M. Eloundou-Enyegue, Development Sociology, and his group, along with collaborators in the region, are studying about 5,000 high school seniors in a sub-Saharan setting. The research team is looking at the challenges students face as they move into adulthood, paying particular attention to economic integration but also social integration and identity. One key hypothesis is that integration is not only about jobs but the social integration of youth in rapidly changing societies—marked by a breakdown of families, rapid urbanization, growing inequality, and consumerism or globalization.
In addition, the team is working with local partners to conduct randomized policy experiments to test the effects of a broad range of interventions that can foster resilience and socioeconomic integration. These include motivational messaging, mentoring programs, after-school life-planning, community service opportunities, professional internships, and affiliation with youth centers. The research team’s affiliation with global development institutions as well as their collaboration with local institutions will maximize the relevance and impact of the results for informing youth policy.