The coronavirus pandemic is expected to have long-lasting social, cultural, economic and political impacts on the whole of societies, including young people, as highlighted by the UN Secretary General’s Report “Shared Responsibility, Global Solidarity”. While a lot of attention has been given to restoring and enabling youth employment and entrepreneurship in order to secure the livelihoods of young Africans, the importance of empowering young people to have their rights and voices heard and to co-lead the response has also been recognised.

So far, youth engagement and action to help fight the pandemic have taken many shapes, from grassroots initiatives led by youth themselves, to organisations and platforms sharing youth opinions and experiences, to involving youth more formally in higher institutions. Young people are increasingly being seen as resourceful players in developing continental and national COVID-19 solutions and response plans. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs also published a report placing young people at the heart of development cooperation in the region. INCLUDE’s own evidence synthesis papers reiterate the importance of distinguishing youth-specific issues within relevant policies, as well as involving youth more broadly in decision-making and accountability processes, both during the crisis and beyond, in order to help shape their own future.

This news item is part of a series exploring different aspects of the COVID-19 crisis in Africa. Through this series, INCLUDE shares evidence around current and needed interventions in these areas, looking at the impacts on specific vulnerable groups and reflecting more broadly on the linkages to inclusive development within the region.

 

1. Pandemic Responses

A number of current interventions, both by and for youth, facilitate the active participation of Africa’s youth population in multiple aspects of the COVID-19 response (from fighting the pandemic and related ‘infodemic’ to ensuring continued education and creating income opportunities) and allow their needs and experiences to be heard and recognised. Each week, the United Nations Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth presents 10 young people leading the COVID-19 response in their communities. Below, we share some of the many ways that youth are engaging (or being engaged) in the response.

 

2. Impacts on vulnerable groups

Vulnerable groups are at risk of becoming even more marginalised and invisible during this crisis. Power has become more centralized and, in many cases, a focus on overall development and immediate survival has taken precedence over inclusion. Here, we present some of the most at-risk groups, along with some interventions offering ways to prevent further widening of inequalities and help vulnerable youth populations regain a sense of agency.

 

3. Impacts on inclusive development

Not ignoring the short-term damages, COVID-19 offers a chance for Africa to become more inclusive of youth. It opens doors for youths to participate in policy making and institutional reform, and to harness their skills, knowledge and ambition for positive change. Important youth networks have been identified as a result of the Virtual AU Youth Consultations Series on COVID-19 which convened over 300 youth leaders from 40 countries in 12 virtual sessions. This momentum must continue in order to strengthen youth leadership and allow them a seat at the table to determine their own future.

  • The African Union Youth Volunteer Corps launched the video “African Youth fights the COVID-19” on Africa Day 2020 to show appreciation and support for the courage and engagement of youth in the emergency response. This helps to position young people as essential agents of development going forward.
  • The World Bank Africa’s ‘Youth Transforming Africa’ (YTA) initiative and the Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development in Africa (YALDA) partnered to organize regular roundtables on development topics to allow dialogue among Africa’s youth and prepare some youth-grown solutions to influence policy making in Africa.
  • Young people are gradually being included in a more direct and impactful way at higher levels of governance. For example, a young representative from the Youth Café actively participated in addressing policy-makers at the African-European parliamentary initiative COVID-19 conference. The Nigerian government is also engaging youth in debates about the fight against COVID-19.
  • Parallel to their survey on youth employment during COVID-19, the Decent Jobs for Youth (DJFY) initiative by the ILO launched the #MyVoiceMyFuture campaign and blog series ‘Youth Rights & Voices’The blog features contributions of youth representatives and youth employment experts, and discusses action-oriented policy responses and solutions to prevent exclusion of young people going forward.
Despite the unprecedented and uncertain global situation, INCLUDE acknowledges the need for strong and valid evidence to drive effective policy action. The news item therefore makes use of what we already know about governance, policy implementation and cooperation in African contexts, particularly during crises and emergencies. Where possible, we draw upon lessons learned in the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak and other relevant experiences of infectious diseases. In preparing the news item, we filter the information available from reliable sources in our network to provide up-to-date and factual insights on the effects of the current pandemic and subsequent policy interventions on inclusive development.

We are open to any input and suggestions that could contribute to this debate. We invite you to send us an email.

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