Youth bulge: A time bomb

A video is circulating of Zanu PF youths toyi-toying and threatening to unleash violence on MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa and his supporters ahead of the 2023 elections.

The youths were in town on Tuesday to support President Emmerson Mnangagwa as he unveiled the statue of liberation icon Mbuya Nehanda in the central business district on Africa Day.

No one had instructed the youths to issue threats of violence against the opposition. In their wisdom, the political leaders wanted the numbers befitting the occasion, notwithstanding the fact that Zimbabwe is in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic with the deadly Indian variant detected in Kwekwe.

For the youths, anyone who challenges the status quo becomes an enemy: the bane of African politics.

In the African setting, youths have become useful cannon fodder in executing violence against political opponents.

Inter-party and intra-party violence becomes prevalent towards elections as opponents see them as the be-all and end-all in political contests. For these politicians the end justifies the means.

With large scale de-industrialisation and unemployment, thanks to years of economic misrule, Zimbabwe has failed to cater for the youth. Few ones have turned into entrepreneurs with one of the means of production—land—still in the hands of the political elite.

In politics, they can ascend up to a certain level as “their time will come and there are the future leaders”.  The “stockholders” have maintained a tight grip. Having failed to secure jobs or land, the youth become “tools’ available to the highest bidder.

It is not only in Zimbabwe that youths get the short end of the stick. In developing countries, the situation is the same: they are scrounging for crumbs.

This is why thousands perish in the Mediterranean as they flee their countries in search of the proverbial greener pastures in Europe.  

Research has shown that countries with a burgeoning youth population, referred to as youth bulge by social scientists, are more prone to civil conflict and violence.

In an article, Youth Bulge: A Demographic Dividend or a Demographic Bomb in Developing Countries?, Justin Yifu Lin, former World Bank chief economist and senior VP, noted that in a country with a youth bulge, as the young adults enter the working age, the country’s dependency ratio—that is the ratio of the non-working age population to the working age population—will decline. If the increase in the number of working age individuals can be fully employed in productive activities, other things being equal, the level of average income per capita should increase as a result. The youth bulge will become a demographic dividend, Yifu Lin observed, adding that the youth bulge would become a demographic bomb if a large cohort of young people cannot find employment and earn satisfactory income.

“While it is important to increase the employability of young people themselves, it is also essential to facilitate dynamic structural change to create jobs for youth. By doing so, the youth bulge can be transformed into a demographic dividend, and the demographic bomb can be defused,” he noted. 

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