The Ichikowitz Family Foundation has published its African Youth Survey for 2022. The youth in Africa are concerned about the disproportionate effect of climate change on the African continent, the role of foreign companies in extracting resources, the influence of foreign leaders on the continent and we see China moving to the top spot of positive influences in the region.
The 2022 African Youth Survey provides a valuable update on the ‘Afro-optimism’ uncovered in the inaugural research conducted in 2019. This year’s study conveys the challenges of a generation and continent hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, but shows their continued resilience and ambition despite the challenges. The study reflects tensions of youth in Africa and the challenges they will navigate in the coming years. While their personal and entrepreneurial ambitions remain strong, the declining perception that their country is on the right path coupled with polarizing national leaders that lack trustworthiness are diminishing levels of optimism for the future. Foreign leaders are expected to have a bigger impact on Africa than national figures, yet foreign companies are seen as vehicles that extract resources without sufficiently benefitting the local communities. There is a recognition among African youth of the challenges facing the continent, particularly with increasing concerns towards the disproportionate impact of climate change and the difficulties surrounding vaccine distribution to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
The research shows that while optimism about the future has declined, African youth remain focused about their personal and entrepreneurial ambitions. Three-quarters of youth know what they want to do with their lives, and a similar proportion have plans to start their own business within the next five years. Similarly, youth are optimistic that their quality of life will improve in the future with three-quarters saying that they expect their standard of living to get better over the next two years, and two-thirds believing that they will have a better life than their parents. Despite this, challenges remain for both their personal and professional ambitions – lack of access to capital and widespread and affordable internet limit entrepreneurial ambition, while perceptions towards the standard of living have declined by more than 10 points since the 2020 African Youth Survey. These concerns about long-term prospects may be driving desires of African youth to emigrate abroad, with more than half considering emigrating to another country in the next three years to secure employment and educational opportunities for their future.
Moving to the broader national perspective, there is a declining perception among youth that their country is on the right path. In areas such as equality of rights, employment and creation of jobs, healthcare services, and maintaining political stability, African youth express sweeping dissatisfaction towards their governments’ efforts to address these issues. However, national leaders are polarizing—they are seen to be the top driver of both positive and negative change in their country, and only two-in-five trust national leaders or local officials in national politics to do the right thing. This sentiment is in part driven by a perception that national leaders are deliberately misleading the public using fake news and misinformation, with three-quarters of youth acknowledging that fake news is a serious problem in their communities today. Unfortunately, the spread of fake news has led to greater divisions within societies across the African continent and youth say that misinformation impacts their ability to stay informed about the issues that matter to them.
In contrast to the domestic landscape, there is widespread agreement among African youth of the positive influence of foreign powers and expectation of foreign leaders to have a bigger impact on the African continent over the next five years. China is seen to have by far the biggest impact on the continent, particularly in the areas of affordable products, foreign investment, and trade relations. The United States and the African Union are seen as the next two most influential powers. Linked to this is the legacy of former colonial powers, where a majority of African youth think that they have a positive influence on education, trade relations, and foreign direct investment in their country. However, a sizable minority are cynical of the influence former colonial powers continue to have, particularly on the politics and leadership of their country as well as access to the natural resources in their country. This is particularly directed towards foreign companies, with six-in-ten youth stating that foreign enterprises have been allowed to take advantage of their country’s resources without sufficiently benefitting the local populations. Unsurprisingly, sentiment among youth in Africa is clearly directed towards taking back control of their country’s natural resources.
With intensified focus on environmental issues, there is a recognition among African youth of the challenges facing the continent. Climate change is a key concern and youth are fearful of the impacts it will have on themselves, their communities, and future generations. Many are carrying out their own actions, taking proactive responsibility for the environment around them and being part of the change they want to see in addressing climate change. However, youth are looking to their government to improve their handling of climate change-related issues. A particular area of focus is on access to water, with a third of African youth finding it difficult to access clean water on a daily basis. Young Africans want their governments to take further steps to address environmental issues and climate change, including reducing carbon emissions and adopting green energy sources.
Additionally, youth also convey clear concern towards the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, seeing it as the most formative development for Africa over the last five years. While most approve of their country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, satisfaction with their country’s healthcare services remains low, vaccine hesitancy is prevalent, and youth are split on what the focus of their countries should be. Reopening the economy is seen as a higher priority than preventing the spread of the pandemic and vaccine distribution. Unfortunately, myths and conspiracy theories about the pandemic, the origin of COVID-19, and how it spreads are prominent among African youth. The pandemic continues to cause unprecedented socioeconomic challenges for the continent and the world and impacts the dayto-day lives of young Africans.
The 2022 African Youth Survey provides new insights into a generation that has been hit hard by the global COVID-19 pandemic and is less optimistic about the future of the continent. Despite this, they remain focused on achieving their personal ambitions and securing opportunities that allow for future progress. Looking towards their national leaders and governments, youth have expressed clear concerns for various issues that will need to be addressed in order to reinvigorate and foster the levels of optimism that were identified across the continent in the inaugural survey.
Please read the full report here.