The Youth all over the world are experiencing a worsening employment crisis: young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults and over 75 million youth worldwide are looking for work (ILO). 45 Million Young people in sub-Saharan Africa are entrenched in working poverty; a situation where an individual works but still falls under the poverty line. Rural-Urban migration has reduced pressure on employers to offer competitive incomes and work standards resulting in low wages unemployment and underemployment (State of the African Youth Report 2011). Educated Youth are settling for survival jobs no matter how insignificant the income is or inadequate the working conditions are. In Liberia 78% of young people are in vulnerable employment while 70% of the total unemployed population in Kenya is young people, in Sierra Leone youth unemployment is at 45.8% (Africa Economic Outlook 2012). According to a USAID report in 2005, the informal sector contributes to 42% of the GDP in developing countries. The informal economy provides a safety net for people who cannot find work in the formal economy. In Ghana, for instance 54% of the workforce is in the informal sector:

  • There are 54 countries in Africa if you include the islands surrounding the region.
  • Africa currently makes up 15% of the World population and is home to over 1.1 billion people.
  • By 2063, it is estimated that there will be over 10b people on our planet with a projected 3 billion living in Africa.
  • Africa has the fastest growing economy and has the most youthful population in the world. Over 40% of the population is under 15 years old and another 20% are between 15-24 years old.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, 3 out of 5 of the unemployed are youth, and 72% of the youth population live on less than USD2 per day.
  • Africa is considered the poorest region in the world but the World Bank estimates through current growth rates, the majority of the region will be considered “middle-income” by 2025.
  • Amongst the largest issues facing youth in the region are access to employment, education and health-care.
  • Politically, youth have little access to policy and decision-making processes.
  • Youth with little in their lives are easily enticed into religious fundamentalism.
  • Africa is the most culturally diverse region. The majority of the population are either
  • Christian or Muslim while approximately 10% follow traditional practices.

In 2006, the African YMCAs agreed to wholeheartedly focus on the empowerment of young people for the African Renaissance. The African Renaissance is about Africans taking charge and responsibility for our social, economic, political and cultural development. This will only work though by focussing on creating the future youth want and need, as defined and shaped by youth themselves.

YMCA as a vehicle for transformation

Globally, the YMCA is an organisation that focuses on the development and empowerment of the lives of youth and their long-term well-being. The African YMCAs bring together youth in 20 African countries with the shared vision of “Empowering Young People for the African Renaissance.” In a way, our ultimate goal is the same as Agenda 2063, making sure that youth inherit an Africa that is powerful, just and prosperous and that youth have the skills and morals to lead with vision. Our core philosophy looks to increase the civic involvement of youth by developing their Voice, access to Space, and Ability to influence for positive change. The Subject2Citizen (S2C) model of change makes sure that youth are able to transform themselves as well as their communities through their own actions and initiatives. S2C greatly shapes the nature of transformational leadership in Africa and works to increase the number of young people who actively participate in their own governance by becoming leaders within the community and at higher levels. Through our work, young people are able to come out from their YMCA experience with more confidence and self-awareness; better able to make informed decisions about their lives at personal and professional level; and are motivated to become active agents of change within their community so that youth can share their learning and strengths. In the long-term, by using our S2C change model, African YMCAs will be able to annually mobilise one million young citizens for civic engagement so that youth will have a stronger position when engaging decision-making structures.