The coronavirus (COVID-19) is the latest crisis that is going to affect the future of African youth. The pandemic has rapidly changed the family and social lives of youth, as well as their daily routines and income. The spread of the virus, and measures taken to contain it, will exacerbate an already fragile condition. African youth have already had to adapt to violent conflicts, political instability, humanitarian emergencies, displacement and limited access to education, healthcare and work opportunities.
The #COVID19 pandemic has rapidly changed young people’s family and social lives, daily routines and income. However,in spite of the obvious challenges, there are also many examples of young people contributing to resilience within their communities.Tweet
A new challenge for African youth will be the economic shock caused by the impact of COVID-19. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that the pandemic could claim up to 24.7 million jobs. While these figures remain “highly uncertain,” they are pointing to a “substantial rise in unemployment.” Underemployment and poverty is also expected to increase on a large scale, as the economic consequences of the pandemic translates into reductions in working hours, wages, and limited employment opportunities.
Yong women are likely to be even more affected. It is easier for men to find employment than women, even if they have the equivalent skills and experience. Where women generally have less decision-making power than men, either at home or in the public sphere, their needs during a pandemic are less likely to be met.
In addition to unemployment and labour market vulnerabilities, some social protection mechanisms and economic policy responses implemented in the context of the COVID-19 crisis (i.e. tax relief, mortgage freezes, waivers of interest on student and business loans) do not seem to consider young people as a specific vulnerable category.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also had a severe impact on education. As of 27 March 2020, 165 countries had implemented nationwide closures of educational institutions, and several more had implemented localized ones, in total affecting 1.52 billion children and youth. The unprecedented disruption of education will have a disproportionate impact on disadvantaged and underprivileged youth, as they do not have access to remote learning. In addition, schools are an important source of stability, routine, meals and social services, such as sexual and reproductive health education. Hence school closures imply a high number of young people facing additional nutrition and health challenges. The impact on education also affects different genders disproportionately. Young women and girls, for example, are less likely to return to school than their male counterparts, and they are more likely to take up domestic care roles at home.
Another area of impact is on young migrants and refugees. Migrants and refugees around the world are especially vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the IOM, there were more than 56 million migrant children and youth (between 15 and 24 years old) in 2019, accounting for nearly 21% of the total number of international migrants worldwide and 31 million children being displaced at the end of 2018.
In spite of the obvious challenges posed by COVID-19 , there are many stories of young people contributing to resilience within their communities. Some youth-driven technology innovation hubs, for example, are supporting start-ups to develop effective solutions to address COVID-19. CcHUB (an open living lab and pre-incubation space) in Nigeria is providing financial, research and design support for projects related to COVID-19. #DefyHateNow, a community organisation based in South Sudan, with branches in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Sudan, has initiated the #211CHECK collective, which is a digital community of youth working in various fields who collaborate to fight misinformation and raise awareness on coronavirus prevention and protection, using the #COVID19SS hashtag.
To further understand the impact and actions by young people in mitigating the repercussions of the pandemic, ACCORD has organised a webinar series to give a platform to the voices of young people, enabling them to share their experiences of how COVID-19 is impacting on their communities, and to explore innovative strategies for youth action to prevent, mitigate and resolve conflict. The next webinar will take place on 14th May 2020, at 14:00 GMT. Should you be interested in joining the webinar, please register here.