We must do more to empower youth to participate in democracy on the African continent.
No country personifies the need to attract young Africans to the positive benefits of democracy than Mauritania, where I met with promising youth leaders today. To say that Mauritania is a young country is an understatement: 59 percent of the nation is 24 years old or younger with a median age of 20.
Unfortunately, Mauritania’s youthful society suffers from a toxic blend high unemployment (47 percent of the labor force under age 25 lack jobs) and low education (the national mean average years of schooling is 3.8). Without a sustained effort to engage young people into the democratic process, Mauritania’s youth will become increasingly disillusioned, making them more vulnerable to recruitment into extremist groups.
We must find constructive ways to engage youth in dialogue, build their skills and confidence to participate in the democratic process, and empower their active participation in political parties, government institutions and civil society organizations.
Dr. Mo Ibrahim, a member of IRI’s International Advisory Council, in discussing the importance of engaging youth said,
We will only fully reap these benefits if we listen to young people, engage with them and provide the education, skills and support they need to prosper.
In this spirit, IRI started Generation Democracy to link youth across borders and political systems to share ideas, experiences and best practices for increasing political and civic participation.
I am hopeful Mauritania’s youth will join Generation Democracy to help the future generation of Mauritanian leaders realize that nation’s full potential. Based on the inspiring young leaders I met today the country has great potential.