Five Things Africa’s Youth Need From You to Succeed
Five Things Africa’s Youth Need From You to Succeed
|By Elizabeth Bintliff, CEO, JA Africa
Africa is a young continent. Up to 60% of Africa’s population is aged under 24. In order for there to be continuous development on the continent in the years to come, there is a need to make sure the youth are well equipped to achieve individual and collective success. Intentionally guiding young people to the right path is key to their ability to own their economic success. With literacy levels rising on the continent, being educated is simply not enough to make young people employable or give them all the tools to be self-employed. In spite of the gains in education, youth unemployment is still on the rise. Giving young people a comparative advantage in the workforce requires the agency and involvement of more experienced professionals who professionals can invest to help equip a new cohort of entrants into the workplace with some of the tools and knowledge the need to be ready for success. What can you do? You can provide them mentorship, coaching, opportunities, networks and voices.
- Coaching: Coaching provides a structured one-on-one platform where youth can engage experienced professionals. When I entered executive management, I was fortunate to have been given a coach to help me navigate its choppy waters. Outside of that formal arrangement, I sought out and was fortunate to have others who invested time in my learning; they patiently evoked my strengths, help me understand myself and showed me how to use them to lead others. Looking back, those resources were critical to my professional growth.
We need not wait for people to young people to attain a certain level before they can access coaching. Seasoned professionals can be intentional about providing this service by looking around them, identifying those who need help and coaching them through their learning. Identifying and engaging a young person can go a long way to helping them integrate into the workplace and provide an opportunity to learn or enhance their skills.
- Mentorship: Mentorship is an ages-old concept which thrived in Africa’s traditional systems of government. From the Buganda people in the East to the Wolof in the West, succession among many Bantu tribes across Africa was systematically preceded by years of mentorship to ensure that those who were in line for succession had the skills, tools and knowledge to lead. Rulers made time to literally ‘show young people the ropes.’ Women community leaders groomed girls for adulthood. Somewhere along the way we seem to have lost that culture. We need to revive mentorship in active ways for modern times; to ensure that African youth are better prepared for their futures. The present generation of professionals has a responsibility to pass on knowledge by sharing successes, failures, lessons learned, advice and guidance. Technological advancement on the continent now means young people can be linked to their mentors on all kinds of platforms to access the right kind of information needed to drive their careers. In JA Kenya, for example, an e-mentorship platform links professionals to youth digitally, meeting busy professionals where they are, eliminating the tedium of long travel times in traffic and making connections possible in alternative ways. Mentorship bridges the gap between present and future leaders, giving a sense of confidence to the youth to be able to interact with and learn from top industry players. Any African professional who has attained a certain level of success has an obligation to reach back and pull someone new along on the path to success.
- Opportunities:All the skills in the world are of no use if the opportunities to make use of them the right way are not available. Creating opportunity for the youth to apply their skills, knowledge and ideas is paramount of all the needs of African youth. Whether as potential employees or as entrepreneurs, young people are not always able to see the opportunities in front of them that seasoned professionals can. So if you see it, share it. Pass it on to a young person and show them what is possible.
- Networks:Being successful is also dependent on the networks and connections you have. I sometimes sense reticence among today’s professional Africans either on the continent or in the diaspora to cultivate their networks for the benefit of other young people. Perhaps having lived too long with the reputation of nepotism we have become leery of anything that looks like it, whereas the rest of the world operates on networks. Networking is a fundamental part of our tradition culture. Any successful person will tell you that strong networks are an important precondition for sustained success. We need to leverage these networks for the young people we coach and mentor. We need to connect them to the right people, put them in the right places, expose them to the right circumstances and opportunities that they can stand on to make their great professionals leaps.
- Voices:We are raising a generation of young people in Africa who are not part of the dialog around decisions that they will have to live with for a long time. We owe it to Africa’s youth to include them in the discussions about their future. We have a responsibility to listen to them tell us what they believe they need to compete and succeed in today’s fast-changing world.
Being successful is also dependent in part on networks and connections. There is a reticence among today’s professional Africans either on the continent or in the diaspora to cultivate their networks for the benefit of other young people. Perhaps having lived too long with the reputation of rampant nepotism we have become leery of anything that looks like it, whereas the rest of the world operates on networks. Networking in a fundamental part of our tradition cultures. Any successful person will tell you that strong networks are an important precondition for sustained success. We need to leverage these networks for the young people we coach and mentor. We need to connect them to the right people, put them in the right places, expose them to the right circumstances and opportunities that they can stand on to make their great professionals leaps.
Critical to all of these are adult professionals who are willing to encourage, to coach, to mentor, to empower. Where do we find them? Just look in the mirror. This International Youth Day, resolve to hold a young person by the hand and guide them along the path to success.
This article was originally published on LinkedIn.