Stuart Price

African Youths and the Challenge of Mentorship

Alexander the Great, after conquering many nations, said, “there is still more world to conquer!” This statement resonates with our youths today especially in the face of growing discontentment across Africa. With few success stories and numerous capabilities, Africa remains a cocoon of absurdities defined by poverty, corruption and killings. Yet there are still positives that can be achieved.

In the face of these challenges, Africa’s young remain perturbed, with only a handful seeing the opportunities that abound. Africa’s young are on the verge of giving up – deserted, doubtful and depressed. Is it a problem of vision, the system or what exactly? How can the youth be helped to begin to see things differently and be all they can be?

Young people occupy a very unique place in the life of every society. They are the major “social capital” of every society concerned with positive changes for a better today and for the future. This explains the attention, resources and investments directed towards their education and socialization. The result, however, is that Africa ignores mentorship that youth require to compete in our present world because their educational processes barely goes beyond preparing them to acquire certificates.

Many youth in Africa are left to deal with unimaginable situations and extremely difficult daily lives which affect their dreams and aspirations for their future. Some of them experience trauma, discrimination, suffering, atrocities and abuse and others have to take on responsibilities well beyond their capacities.

The contemporary reality of the huge population of unemployed youth draws attention to how they can be best harnessed. Besides coming up with ways to reach the youth, mentorships are critical in providing escape routes from their reality and giving them windows to dream about a future. Particularly, Africa needs a model of mentorship that inspires young people to learn from problem-solving, exploration and imagination where youth repeatedly see and hear that they are valued and important and provide a foundation for critical thinking and a lifetime love for mentorship where the needs and opinions of youth are included.

Somali youths in the city of Kismayo, Somalia. (Stuart Price)

One in three Africans are between the ages of ten and twenty-four, and about 60 percent of Africa’s total population is below the age of 35. Africa is no doubt the largest reservoir of youth who are intrinsically ingenuous and productive. While some studies have revealed that the African continent is poised to enlarge through technology developed by young people, it is necessary for Africa to rethink its policies towards empowering more youths for the development of the continent.

The continent is poised to grow through technology developed by young entrepreneurs but to effectively spur innovation and economic growth, we must look at how we support our entrepreneurs. Great ideas and hard work are vital to entrepreneurial success, but young leaders also know that improving access to incubators and mentors will help them become thriving business owners.

With half of the continent’s population under the age of twenty-five, Africa no doubt holds the world’s largest reservoir of young people. However, very few of these young people are involved in shaping the conversation on the future of the continent. It is essential that all leaders embrace and enable young people to succeed and show them how they can impact the future. Just as entrepreneurs need mentors to help them develop an idea into a business, our leaders must engage with young people like myself on issues if we want an engaged, active generation of leaders. Young people also are obligated to seek those opportunities for engagement.

Today, the common consensus is that there is a need to develop creative ways to help youth explore, discover, harness their potentials and leverage available resources in their environment to their advantage. Understanding how young people process information, how they perceive, learn from, conceptualize and act upon what they see and hear will go a long way in ensuring that what they learn is effective and empowering. The principles of mentorship must be exciting, participatory and based on needs i.e. a two-way process of sharing knowledge and experiences, systematically planned to achieve positive, result oriented and measurable objectives.