The Need for Youth Advancement in Liberia
The promise of Liberia’s future leadership rests on its large number of young people who are supposed to be part of the new generation of African leaders. Integration of young people into key strategic leadership roles is essential for sustainable economic growth and development. Despite historical evidence of young people’s contributions to driving changes in political systems, the youth in Liberia on a larger skill are absolutely unprepared to transmute Liberia for a change.
By Akiah Precious Glay, Contributing Writer
To begin with, Liberia is one of the countries in Africa where most of its population is young. According to the United Nation population Fund (UNFPA) Liberia, 63 percent of the population is less than 25 years old and 32.8 percent is 10-24 years old which insinuates, decades from now, the growth and development of Liberia will be left to the youth. Sadly, there is a huge uncertainty in this expected growth and transformation due to the low investment in human capacity building.
The youth in Liberia are faced with formidable challenges which has exacerbated over time leaving them with less opportunities and limited options for advancement; not to mention females, the future of young women in Liberia is at stake. The extreme poverty and early parental task taken on by youth and teenage girls has over many years limited their chances of achieving full potential and becoming better world leaders. It is estimated that the average 3 in 10 Liberians girls are pregnant before the age of 18. According to the World Bank collection of development indicators, teenage age girls who have had children can be estimated 33. 5%; moreover, Millennium Development Goals report by ministry of planning indicates the ratio of girls to boys who are most likely to attend primary school is 40% to 59% which designates that there could be a huge disparity amongst gender leadership in the future and can also limit the country’s quest for future gender equality in public spheres.
Unlike the young people in Liberia, some of the world’s leaders including Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States and Emmanuel Macron who was 39 years old when ascended power, had prepared through the many opportunities afforded them by their societies, governments and institutions. Their systems and politicians has created avenue to all who are willing to advance. The call for concern is that youth in Liberia are not yet ready to lead. It seems that the society has neglected its role to empower youth for the future; this is alarming and calls for attention. In addition, the call for power shift from older to the younger generation is fast gaining currency. This political discourse has occupied the public sphere in many countries. Most recent example could be Talia Urey, who in 2019 contested in a representative election in Liberia. This is a clear indication that youth are gradually gravitating towards leadership in Liberia but, on the contrary, are they ready to mount up to the task!
It is continuously emphasis that the concentration of the government and the people of Liberia focus attention towards youth empowerment. Although Liberia education indices are gradually improving, many youth continue to experience disproportionately lower levels of basic training skill and formal education. An estimated 51% of youth ages 15-24 are illiterate and approximately 60% have not completed primary school according to Liberia Youth Assessment Situational Analysis Report 2019. This is scaring for the future of Liberia because youth capacity is extremely essential to the sustainable economic and development of Liberia; it is important that the youth of Liberia be skilled, competent and erudite enough to deliver.
Youth unemployment and underemployment are a particular concern in Liberia. The Liberia national youth policy shows that the youth constitute more than a third of the total population and nearly half of the labor force in Liberia. While youth on other part of the continent are digging through opportunities, preparing themselves for the future, the unemployment and underemployment and lack of social security, educational opportunities and inclusive governance is driving the Liberian young men and women to informal or even criminal activities making them susceptive to recruitment efforts of criminals or attempt to illegal migration.
In addition, the labor force survey participation rate indicates that the 15-24 youth cohort is 35.1. At such, youth unemployment and employability should be a high priority for the government. On the other hand, skills and expertise are hardly essential for the youth of Liberia as many people are considered unemployed without formal and informal education. Walking in the street everyday are majority of hopeless and unemployed young men and women vending, struggling to survive. Whether the future of Liberia is going to be better than the current or the past, it depends on the extent to which the government implements sound policies and invest in human capital such as tertiary education, vocational training, skills development, agriculture and food security, health labor, intensive job creation and encouraging entrepreneurship.
During the 7th session of the conference of Heads of States and governments, held in Banjul, Gambia, in July 2006, African Union Heads of States and government adopted the African Youth charter (AYC), a political and legal document to support policies, programs and actions for youth development in Africa. The AYC which serves as a strategic framework for youth empowerment and development at the continent seems not to be utilized in Liberia as many youth are still neglected by the system. In addition, in 2009, African Union Heads of States and government declared the year 2009-2018 as the decade of youth Development in Africa to accelerate youth empowerment for sustainable development.
Building youth resilience and capacity in Liberia must be a right and imperative for all. Especially, equal prioritization of both genders in the labor force is also essential.
Statistic retrieved from the July 2018 demographic of Liberia estimates that the total population of Liberia is 4,809,768. As shown, the population comprises of mostly youth. Approximately, 10 or 20 years from now, most of these young people are expected to take up leadership. But if the government does not act speedily to educate and empower the youth, there will be a huge disparity between Liberia and other African countries who are investing in youth empowerment. This paper is a call to action for the national and international body to invest in human capacity building.
It is clearly seen that under the onslaught of a range of adversities, disease, unemployment, political repression, conflict and the collapse of education, young people are actively fashioning new social order. Even though, they are bewildered, demoralized and exploited and aspire to leave to seek better life, they are still hopeful.
The brief analysis in this paper presents more problems besetting the future of Liberia and urges the government to take heed in order to save the state. It will be of essence if the government in collaboration with international organizations engages in building human capacities in Liberia rather than funding politicians and political issues. The best way to begin is invest in vocational and technical education so that the vast majority of the youth can serve as the technicians of the country. Boasting youth earnings in the informal sector is also relevant as many are involve in petite trading. This process involves the development of transferrable skills, entrepreneurship and other work ready skills among youth.
The participation right of young people (including male and female) must be taken seriously by the government so that they are most adequately represented in the society. Legislations and other mechanism for ensuring youth voices are heard must be implemented; institutions that represents youth must be enhanced.
Tthe need for sustainable education amongst the youth in Liberia is crucial due to the fact that there is a direct nexus between education and employment; in that human capital may directly increase productivity making individuals with greater human capital more valuable and the society more respectable. Therefore, mechanism for delivering services to the young, ranging from schools and clinics, to banks and micro-credit institutions, needs strengthening with greater and more participation of young skilled.
The process of creating and developing young people’s leadership cannot be politicized or directed, it can only be encouraged, most importantly by providing the right domestic environment. For the enhancement of Liberia, attentions must be drawn on capacity building and the refurbishment of the education sector. The University of Liberia and all major universities must be monitored, supported and task to support youth groups and organization.