A response to the African development challenge has been in the form of initiatives designed to address the leadership deficit on the continent by raising a new generation of African leaders. To that end, the past two decades have seen the emergence of a plethora of initiatives. There is, however, no holistic view of what these initiatives are, how initiatives fit into the broader ecosystem, where the participants come from, who is funding these initiatives, whether these initiatives are effective and how they can be improved. Moreover, once capacitated, are these young leaders being called upon to help co-create solutions to Africa’s most pressing challenges?

Despite the best intentions of these leadership initiatives to raise a new generation of young leaders, young people remain conspicuous by their absence at various decision-making platforms at national, regional and continental levels. This, despite the African Youth Charter which was signed in 2006, enshrining the rights, duties and freedoms of African youth, being in place.

Specifically, the Charter seeks to ensure the constructive involvement of youth in the development agenda of Africa and their effective participation in the debates and decision-making processes in the development of the continent. Given the complexities and challenges the continent faces, there is a need to harness ideas from across the population divide—men, women and youth—to take Africa forward.

“…young people remain conspicuous by their absence at various decision-making platforms at national, regional and continental levels.”

If the argument is that young people are not ready and lack experience, how then will they ever gain experience? Indeed, there are far-reaching and deleterious consequences of not absorbing young leaders into current structures.

One negative impact is the looming vacuum that will manifest in institutions due to the lack of deliberate succession planning and a lack of knowledge transfer from one generation to another. This report on the state of leadership initiatives focused on young Africans is not a stand-alone piece.

It is part of a broader effort to shift the position of young African leaders “from being mere participants into partners and from being beneficiaries of programmes into resources for programmes” (Okojie, C.E). It heralds the start of a conversation about opening up spaces so that young leaders can make meaningful contributions to national, regional and continental agendas. It is not sustainable nor desirable that, for a continent that is disproportionately young, young people do not have a seat at the table and cannot determine their futures nor contribute to the Africa they want to see.

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