Youth empowerment and development is a matter of urgency which demand time and resources to help develop our ever energetic, passionate, innovative, connected and creative young people of our country.
What young people need is the right investment of time, opportunities and money to unearth their hidden potentials. It is important to focus on building policies and the right institutions to make this happen. However, we must also be careful not to lose sight of other essential elements such as inspiration, mutual respect, value and love.
The merger of youth and sports under one ministry has never helped the youth. We are witnesses to the fact that, the ministry and its ministers have primarily focused on sports to the neglect of youth development initiatives and activities. Young people remain the biggest asset of any nation that has the vision to thrive through innovation and creativity. Elsewhere, such as Sierra Leon, Mali, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and other countries where there is a separate ministry for the youth, youth development is key on the agenda and the youth have contributed significantly to the socio-economic development of those countries.
In South Africa for example, the National Youth Development Agency is a single, unitary structure, established to address youth development issues at National, Provincial and Local government level and directly under the office of the President. Other countries have shown commitment and examples by putting the youth in charge of their own development. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the deputy minister of youth is 22 years whereas Liberia’s deputy minister in charge of youth, Kula Fofona is less than 35 years.
The African Youth Charter (2006) defines youth as any person aged 15 to 35 years. Collaboratively, Ghana also defines youth as those between the ages of 15 and 35 years inclusive (Ghana Youth Policy, 2010). According to the United Nations, Department of Economics and Social Affairs, Population Division (2015), about 70.2% of Ghana’s population is below the age of 35years. This presents a window of opportunity for government to harness the demographic dividend through the right investments in the youth. Failure to do this will only aggravate the already existing massive youth unemployment in Ghana today and its consequences. Is it surprising to wake up to emergence of vigilante groups, news of lawlessness, and gruesome murders? The recent happenings will soon destabilize our society if nothing is done.
The separation of youth and sports ministry will ensure a stand alone ministry to fully address the concerns and issues of youth development. This will also help address and tackle youth development from holistic and multi-sectorial approach with the right and maximum impact .Several surveys, researches and trend analysis conducted by many international organizations as well as local based youth development organizations such as Youth Without Borders Ghana and Youth Bridge Foundation have revealed that a staggering 70% of the budget allocations to the Ministry of Youth and Sports is expended on sports. Earlier this year, during a radio discussion on YWB Ghana call for Separate Youth Ministry, a former Minister of Youth and Sports Rashid Pelpuo indicated that about 60% of the ministry’s budget has always been spent on sports particularly the black stars, which confirms the earlier research conducted by the youth groups.
Ghana is one of the countries in Africa faced with huge youth unemployment. This can be attributed to the fact that, no one seems to be responsible for youth development in the country. Several policies, laws, regulations, bills and institutions have been formed in the past with the aim of championing youth development but these have yielded no substantial results. There seems to be no co-ordination and synergy among state agencies purporting to be working for the youth. In most cases also, state agencies mandated to work for the development of young people, for example the National Youth Authority have not been properly resourced and funded to carry out their mandated constitutional obligation. When it comes to issues of youth development, the ministry of youth and sports has always given the excuse of inadequate resources amidst competing alternatives for disbursement of funds.
A separate ministry of youth will not only bring about youth development and empowerment, but would also ensure proper co-ordination and supervision of all state departments working on youth development issues and initiatives like the Ministry of Education, Labour and Employment, Agriculture, Gender and Social Protection among others. A separate youth ministry will also ensure that, all state mandated bodies such as the National Youth Authority are properly resourced to carry out their mandates. As at 2016, out of a total of 216 districts in Ghana, less than 100 have District Youth Authority Offices, a situation that retrogresses the development of young people in rural Ghana.
If a proper Ministry of Youth is created it will redefine its development policies, strategies and programmes at national level so that interventions directed to develop the youth are implemented to make them responsible and accountable and yet impactful to the state. As said by Benjamin Franklin, “nothing is more important for public wealth than to form and train youth in wisdom and virtue”.
Arguably also, a nation that refuses to spend its wealth on the development of its teaming young population would be forced to spend same resources on fighting insurgency and insecurity.