The Jesuit Justice and Ecology Network Africa (JENA) Youth Empowerment and Leadership Development Working Group met in Lome, Togo at the Centre Sociaux Loyola from 12th to 13th February 2019. The meeting comprised Frs. Desire Yerumuremye, S.J, (Chair) Charles Chilufya, S.J (Ex-Officio), Patrice Ndayisenga, S.J, Kelly Michelo, S.J. and Martin-Claude Domfang, S.J. Based on JENA’s Strategic Plan 2019 to 2023. The Working Group has developed strategies and implementation plans to continue to effect JENA’s work to respond to the situation of young people in Africa across the spaces where various Jesuit ministries serve young people in Africa in schools, colleges, universities, schools, social centres, parishes, etc.
Over 70% of the population in Africa falls below the age of 35. The growth of Africa’s youthful population is not in tandem with the improvement of the continent’s preparedness to tap this resource for economic growth. All over the continent, there is widespread frustration and agitation by and among young people over limited economic opportunities, growing corruption, rising unemployment, and limited opportunities for political participation. This growing frustration is increasingly manifested in migration of young people from the continent and the global appeal of terrorism and violent extremism and the alarmingly high number of young people being recruited into these extremist groups and also being used for political expediency. A youthful population is like a double edged-sword; it could be channelled into a dividend for economic and social transformation with the right investment or it could explode into violent conflict with devastating consequences.
With Africa’s youthful population, Africa is at a ‘tipping point’. What we all do or fail do for and with young people going forward will ultimately decide the future of the continent. We the Jesuits in Africa are seeking in our own way to contribute to countless efforts on the continent to respond to the situation of young people in Africa.