Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ghana is one of the notable developing economies in the West African sub-region with Greater Accra as its capital city. About 33% of the estimated over 23 million Ghanaians are believed to be the youth. Ghana’s definition for the youth is young people between the ages of 15 – 35 years in line with the African Youth Charter. Over, the last few years, the drift or massive influx of the youth into the city has been very astronomical swelling up the population of Accra to about 1,658,937.

One of the challenges confronting such young people is mass unemployment. Young people are eager to get income-earning jobs so they can cater for themselves and send some remittances back to their relatives in the village. Lack of job opportunities have even compelled some young people to engage in prostitution. Girls as young as 13 years are seen actively involved in the sex business.

Another challenge is the issue of housing or accommodation. Young people are visibly seen every night taking refuge in front of stores, shops, lorry parks, bus terminals and uncompleted buildings as places of rest at the mercy of the unfavourable weather, mosquitoes, thieves, and rapists. Majority of such young people are known as kayayei (female head porters) and kayahii (male head porters). The females especially migrate from the Northern part of the country to escape early (premature) marriage. Sadly, they been vulnerable are abused and raped by their male counterparts resulting in teenage pregnancies.

Generally, young people in urban cities can be associated with streetism, deviant behaviours, armed robbery, drug abuse, premarital & teenage pregnancies, illicit or unprotected sexual activities, illiteracy, poor health etc.

Measures that can be adopted in dealing with these youth-based challenges in Accra are:
1. Youth Education – young people should be given the right to education at least to the High school level. This will help young people to understand and appreciate basic rules and regulations, and make meaningful contributions to society. When they get educated, they will be able to avoid some diseases and ensure good health by keeping the environment clean and heeding to good sanitation practices.
2. Enforcement of youth laws and regulations – policies and legislations on the welfare of young people should be enforced. Ghana unfortunately has not been able to pass a National Youth Policy for the youth. This provides no direction or plans for the youth of the nation thereby jeopardizing their security and rights in life. Young people have a right to basic human needs such as food, shelter and clothing thus the necessity to ensuring the fulfillment of such needs by law.
3. Youth skills training and employment opportunities – young people should be trained on employable skills to generate self-employment or take advantage of job vacancies in the labour market. On-the-job training and other work developmental programmes should be periodic to continually make workers relevant to the job market and to eschew obsolesce. Nevertheless, training should not be limited only in the formal sector or the white-collar jobs. Skills especially in the informal sector such as sewing, ceramics, hairdressing, cane weaving, farming, barbering, shoe-making, tour guiding, tour operation etc should be capitalize on.

Over the period, youth inclusion in shaping the urban development agenda has not been promising in Ghana primarily due to culture norms or values. In a typical Ghanaian culture, children or young people are not regarded to contribute to decision-making in the home or family. The elders (predominantly males) confer among themselves and make decisions on behalf of everyone in the community. This practice seems to have been transposed unto the socio-political institutions or governance where the planners, policy makers or politicians make decisions without consulting the views of young people. Young people are regarded as not possessing the requisite ideas, skills, knowledge or expertise.

Nonetheless, young people have proven to show a great wealth of talents, potential, abilities and energy that can be harnessed and used profitably. Young people like Jerry Young and Mike Zukerberg have made their global debut as “technology wizards”. Moreover, young people are making meaningful contributions through the media (radio, TV, Press, Internet etc) in discussing national issues.

As part of the agenda against climate change, I was selected and trained in 2009 as a Master Youth Trainer on Climate Change. I am currently initiating a national youth awareness campaign on climate change in collaboration with our Ministry of Environment, Science & Technology, National Youth Council and Environmental Protection Agency. The campaign plan will commence from the regional levels, to the district levels then to the community levels.
Already, in the urban developmental programme, solar panels are been considered in developing domestic or industrial structures; road transportation system is been revised to check the emissions of carbon dioxide; trees (flora and fauna) are been encouraged not only to beautify the city but to enhance environmental sustainability.

Moreover, I have been selected as an Assessor for the Ghana Innovation Marketplace 2009 competition dubbed “Waste Management: Big problem! Big Opportunity!” under the auspices of the Government of Ghana, The World Bank Group and Development Partners and African Aurora Business Network (AABN). The competition basically is to help deal profitably with the sanitation problem (waste) engulfing Accra.
Furthermore as a Youth Development Worker, I actively interact with my colleague young people across the world through the cross-pollination of ideals and ideas on youth-developmental issues. This has profited in the replication or duplication of youth-led practices, methods, concepts or programmes.

Youth inclusion in urban development cannot be overemphasized. According to John F. Kennedy, USA Former President, “the future promise of any nation can directly be measured by the current prospects of its youth”. In the light of this, the future of any urban facility (that is progress, success or failure) is dependent on the primary beneficiaries, i.e., the youth. Not only must they be considered as consumers of urban products or structures but as key stakeholders in the planning and decision-making processing to ensure sustainability of any urban developmental agenda.