Harnessing Africa’s Youth Population:Liberia’s Assistant Minister of Youth and Development

Nearly all African countries are failed states. In reality, the current generation of leaders have failed. However, Africa needs an assertive, strong generation who are able to contribute and lead change in the face of emerging global challenges and guard against erosion into a state of anarchy. At the International Youth and Diplomacy Conference, Accra, I had a fairly long chat with Hon. Kula V. Fofana, Assistant Minister for Youth Development, Ministry of Youth & Sports, Republic of Liberia. Prior to her appointment, in 2013, she led the process known as National Consultant to develop the Liberian Youth Common Position on the post 2015 development Agenda. This process sought to engage Liberian youths through a robust consultation throughout the country in an effort to contribute to the Common African Position on the Post 2015 Agenda.

What precisely was your goal leaving Liberia for the International Youth and Diplomacy Conference, Accra?

First of all, I support youth initiatives. Especially initiatives that are considerate in terms of discussing young people and issues. This one is one of those initiatives that is very important to growth that is why I came. The Liberian delegation is the highest here; we have about 32 delegates. I support young people who are doing marvelous things in their community.

Considering that Africa has a huge young population, how is Liberia setting the pace for Africa in terms of engaging youths?

In the work that I have done over the years, I think in every corner of Africa and indeed the world, there are amazing young people who are doing amazing things and changing the face of how youths are perceived as trouble makers, violent people. There are young people who are into enterprises that are developing their communities. For example, there are young people who are into agriculture, those who are business minded and others who are into leadership trying to motivate the next generation of young Africans. For those young people who are portraying the best image of the continent, we support them. A large chunk of what we have done over the years is to inspire and support them so they can do more, explore and inspire. It’s basically what we have done over the years and looking at the numbers, you are quite right, most countries in Africa have a big youth population. About 70% of the populations of several countries on the continent are below the age of 35. Basically, this means; we need these young people to work and create jobs. Because many places you go, one issue facing a lot of young people is unemployment. But there are young people who can be employers instead of employees.

Can you tell us how your policies, the past ones and how the ones you’re intending to implement have helped to maximize the potentials of a youth population?

Well, there are several policies for the younger generation. Firstly, the young people we work with are not a homogenous group of people. They are different, in terms of issues and interests. For example, there are young people with disabilities, there are those who have not been to school, training or any form of education. So, we have specific programs and interventions for those group of people. There are other young people who are the regular young people, those that create jobs, those in schools or graduates. Holistically, we have the National Youth Policy for all those different populations I talked about and even millions of women. One of the challenges young women face is the issue of teenage pregnancy, it is very high in places across Africa. For example, in Liberia, we have a specific intervention for young women and girls. Of course sexual and gender based violence is one of the issues young women are facing. So, we have the Ministry of Gender collaborating with our ministry to do intervention in those areas. Again, there’s not one policy to cover all these issues. Yes, there is a national youth policy but within those contexts, there are more specific policies to address these issues.

Thank you, I wish you a safe trip home.

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