Monday, October 17, 2011

Youth Led-Development in Africa – are you taking action? start here!

Monday, October 17, 2011
Author: Pochi Tamba Nsoh, Cameroon

African Education Initiative/ NAYD
At the start of the UN International Year of Youth in August 2010, UN Focal Point on Youth Nicola Shepherd stated "The International Year is about advancing the full and effective participation of youth in all aspects of society". With the world talking about the UN Year of the youth, I think there is no better time for any African youth leading a development organization to take a pause and look behind. How far have we come? What was our take-off point and what again is our destination. 

Varied reports from the World Bank, UNDP, IMF, and UNICEF show that more than half of the population living South of the Sahara live in absolute poverty or on a purchasing power parity of less than USD 1 per day. And the millions of youths that Africa counts, form a good part of these poor people, and this despite the many decades of youth involvement in development. Recently, a friend celebrated 15years of youth-led development. On that occasion, I tried to sample opinions among the youths I know have been in the business of development and was amazed at what I found. Really many young people are working for a better health care, human rights conditions, social welfare situation etc. 

Yet, young people's engagement in the development process continues to be informal and sporadic. And the results still very much awaited. Though as a youth activist, I know the challenges are enormous and range from the conception of the idea to the actually day-to-day implementation, I nonetheless think, African youths should and must start thinking critically of how to improve on their development related activities in order to be more efficient in tackling the ills of our times. 

As one of the founders of a network that today counts hundreds of youth led organizations in Africa (, I know firsthand some of the things that slow African youths down. Most would say funding. But before we get to funding, there are a many things that young people overlook on the subject of development work. From the conversations had , I know that most never have a long-term plan. Activities are done on a sort of “pay-as-you-go” format, depending on how much resources are available. I believe a lot of failures that I have seen young people encounter can be avoided if we take the time to; 
  1. Think through our concept thoroughly and find out how they fit into the context we live in, 
  2. Talk to more informed persons about the issues we want to address so as to get valuable information about what lies ahead, 
  3. Try to conduct realistic assessment of our resources before we start – bearing in mind that resources go beyond money and include things like your time, allowances, human resources, recyclable material and the world of family and friends we can count on, and, 
  4. And read about what you want to get into so you do not get dispersed in your objectives. If you cannot get books on it, you certainly can get information online. 
There is a toolkit on how to efficiently get into youth-led-development that I want to suggest to you. I was part of the team that wrote it and it is one of the tools used by International organizations to empower young people starting youth led organizations. It is called Nothing for Us Without Us. You can get the PDF version by clicking on the title there or by checking on any internet search engine (Great idea because you will come across a lot more!!). 

In this time of unemployment, slow economic growth, fragmented identities, conflicts, and an uncertain future, it is important that as an African youth, you rise above the lot with a drive to contribute in changing the state of things. Take some time and sit calmly to think of where you really are heading to and how you want to tackle what thorns could be on your path. It is your right to engage in your own development. But it is also your obligation to ensure your engagement is informed. 

Editorial Team.

Pochi Tamba Nsoh is a Journalist from Cameroon. She has been part of the Radio and Television network since 2007. She is one of the founders of the network of African Youth-led Organisation for Development - NAYD (, which has close to 1000 members across 40 African Countries. She is also the founder of an organisation - Maya Initiatives, that works to support the empowerment of women and children in remote areas in Cameroon. She is also a member of the Media Women4Peace and the International Association of Women in Radio and Television, where she works on promoting public knowledge on women related issues.
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