Youth Leadership and Governance in West Africa

Youth Leadership and Governance in West Africa

Ultimately, innovation will be discussed as a tool to leverage in the political arena. It is noteworthy to stress that West Africa’s large youth population can either spur innovation, creativity, and enterprise – or fuel instability and violence, as they face poverty, barriers to education, multiple forms of discrimination and limited employment prospects and opportunities. How policies, structures and processes are implemented in this regard will determine the prospects for current and future generations and economies.

In its resolution 36/28 of 1981 (and for statistical purposes), the UN General Assembly endorsed the definition of “youth” as persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years. In a third of countries, according to the UNDP (2012), eligibility for the national parliament starts at 25 years or higher and it is common practice to refer to politicians as “young” if they are below 50 years of age.

Yet, for many people, turning 30 marks the end of youth. The general consensus is that youth lasts up to, and including the age of 29, and therefore, for the purpose of this paper, the author – without prejudice to any other operational, socio-cultural, institutional, economic or political definition and nuances of the term “youth”, defines the latter as persons between the ages of 15 and 30 years.

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