The Puggle: May 2024 edition

In 2021, Edward Paice published Youth Quake: Why African Demography Matters. He outlines how Africa’s population growth means that “by mid-century about one-third of the world’s working-age population will be African” and argues that “the consequences of youth endeavors to change politics will be of global importance.” (A NYTimes article last October also highlighted these trends alongside compelling visuals.)

His book is on our minds today because of the Gen Z protests underway in Kenya. In particular, the book quotes a 2019 tweet from a Kenyan businessman that feels especially timely: “What is clear is that a very young, very informed and very connected African youth demographic is set to alter the existing equilibrium between rulers & subjects, and a rebalancing has begun.”

More broadly, the swell of youth has huge consequences for the continent and beyond. By 2030, there will be 250 million primary-school children in Africa — 33% more than in 2015. Countries need to keep up with the growing demand for school enrollment while also working to improve the quality of education they deliver. On top of that, they need to dramatically expand access to secondary opportunities, from which too few students benefit. These are no small tasks…but they are critical ones. As Ben Piper argues, strong learning foundations for children in Africa will generate “limitless potential” for the continent.

Furthermore, every year this decade, 25 million young Africans will reach working age. “Even if Africa as a whole were able to replicate over the next two to three decades the economic growth record, job-creation and transformational changes in economic structure achieved by the ‘tiger’ economies of Southeast Asia towards the end of the twentieth century, and their ‘cubs’ in this century, the continent would be hard-pressed to absorb a labor force of these dimensions in productive employment.”

It is no wonder that young people feel frustrated and angry and are mobilizing. Paice also quotes Carlos Lopes, who argues, “Youth do not want to discuss the future. They are the future.” So why not empower them to make consequential decisions today? The Children’s Rights Innovation Fund is partnering with 12 funders (ourselves included) to put youth activists in the lead of designing a strategy and distributing $1 Million USD. Read more about the fund’s intentions here.

Given that youth are the future, who better to weigh in on the Summit for the Future? Plan and UNICEF have asked girls what they imagine for the future. Young people feel unsafe given climate emergencies and conflicts. They are frustrated that governments are not doing more to advance girls’ rights and gender equality. But they are also optimistic. 90% of those surveyed “believe they will influence significant improvements in gender equality in the next 30 years.” 

We can help ensure their optimism is warranted. Breakthrough CEO Sohini Bhattacharya describes how, “Empowered young leaders have prevented child marriages, inspired their peers to pursue higher education, and supported each other.” She offers examples of the types of life skills, media literacy, and self-discovery that empower youth leaders. Colleagues from Reap Benefit also offer examples of how to support young people to solve hyperlocal climate and civic issues. And Educate! outlines how they’re embedding more practical, hands-on entrepreneurship learning in classrooms across Rwanda.

Here are three other resources worth highlighting this month:

  • The South Feminist Knowledge Hub just launched. Check it out for “information and materials  about South Feminism theory, histories, research, analysis, concepts, practices, and policies from a decolonial Global South feminist perspective!”
  • Anyone working on behavior change interventions should check out this article from Nature. It summarizes “multidisciplinary meta-analyses of the individual and social-structural determinants of behavior (for example, beliefs and norms, respectively) and the efficacy of behavioral change interventions that target them.” 
  • Anyone working to influence policy through evidence should look at these insights from a decade of research. The research finds three characteristics that enhance policy impact: co-creation, election timing, and institutional affiliation.

Lastly, applications are now open for: