Ghana and the whole African continent must harness the potential of their home grown youth.

(First published for Joy Online in Ghana.

Among growing dissatisfaction at the job market in the US, Europe or further afield, many young Ghanaian’s who were educated or even born abroad are returning to the country their parents left. In many ways Ghana is the gateway to Africa for many young black professionals, welcoming those not only of direct Ghanaian descent but also the wider black diaspora. The effect of Ghanaian returnees has been largely positive. They have helped grow the economy, contributed enormously to Ghanaian arts and culture and have helped ensure Ghana remains one of the most stable democracies in West Africa. With 50% of Ghana’s 24 million inhabitants under the age of 30 as well as it becoming an ever more attractive place to live and work for those in the diaspora, there is no surprise that Ghana are doing the most they can to ensure that their enthusiastic young population are felt as included as possible in the countries development.

Soon, I will be one of these people, having recently left university after achieving 1st in history, I have found my opportunities as a young black graduate limited and wanted to place myself in an environment where my contributions will be impactful. However, is enough being done to help the native youth realise their full potential? I read a stat recently that suggested the percentage of young Ghanaians making the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean has not changed considerably in over ten years. This in the same decade where Ghana has enjoyed rapid economic growth, has struck oil on a few occasions and have remained a stable and healthy democracy. You would think within this context there exists the perfect environment to ensure that those young people born and bred in Ghana, who haven’t benefitted from the privileges of being educated abroad, to be full participants in Ghana’s rapid development. Generous relocation packages from huge multinational corporations that require applicants to have the education and experience not accessible to poor Ghanaians has meant that youth unemployment is around a third of economically active citizens.

Herein lies the problem with the “Africa rising” narrative. An increase in GDP caused by huge investments from massive global businesses does not mean that a nation will rise like the preverbal phoenix from the ashes. The stable system of government Ghanaians have worked to achieve should not simply be used as a marketing tool to invite big businesses in to take up residence and proceed to cherry pick the best and brightest of the enthusiastic diaspora to come back home. Ghana’s stability and economic progress needs to work for ALL its citizens, especially the young, if it is to be sustained.

It is said that a nation’s greatest asset is the “unfettered minds and hearts of its people”. Whilst Ghana, and indeed the whole African continent, is doing a great job at attracting foreigners and the diaspora to come back; if Africa is t truly rise, it needs to work first and foremost for those who were born and bred on the continent.