Innovative Civic Initiatives by Young People to Strengthen their Role in Post-COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is testing the resilience of national education systems, economies and job markets, highlighting the digital divide, income inequality, and workforce fragility around the world. In Africa, the virus has kept millions of children and young people out of school, exacerbating an existing education crisis. According to the International Labor Organization, youths have been disproportionately affected, suffering rapid increases in unemployment since the pandemic’s onset. Young people between the ages of 14 and 24 make up one-fifth of Africa’s population, with numbers projected to increase over the next three decades. Africa’s young people are therefore the most important source of human capital for the continent and constitute its engine of growth. To successfully respond to this crisis and “build back better” for the long term, African leaders must strategically partner with youth to leverage their innovation, creative ideas, labor and resourcefulness. The most important way that African leaders can purposefully engage with young people is by investing in quality foundational education. To do this, the pedagogy of education in Africa must change. Foundational learning must reflect the needs of the local economy, but also help youth compete globally. Education must focus on key competencies, such as literacy, numeracy, problem-solving and critical thinking. Yet, despite these setbacks, youth-led innovations and civic initiatives in education, health and other sectors have flourished. Young people worldwide have taken action to prevent the spread of the virus and mitigate its impact. These initiatives highlight the need for immediate and significant action to mitigate the long-term effects of this crisis.