At Davos 2024, Leaders Must Invest In Future Of Youth
The World Economic Forum (WEF) occurs in Davos yearly, but 2024 already feels different. Rapid global economic changes, conflicts, unprecedented heatwaves, growing apathy towards democratic principles, and the continuous evolution of technology are impacting humanity at a blistering pace, hitting the poorest the hardest.
As world leaders and business executives convene next week to address these pressing issues, advocates and policy entrepreneurs will be out in force to ensure discussions along the Davos Promenade focus on immediate actions leaders should take in 2024. One of the most critical areas to focus their attention on is urgently driving investments, particularly for youth, to establish the groundwork for a prosperous, common future.
25% of the world’s population is under 14, especially in Africa, where the median age is 19. This population group is the one that is most vulnerable to today’s challenges and is impacted most by decisions and actions for which it isn’t responsible.
With the appropriate level of investment, this cohort can thrive. Africa, home to 1.2 billion people, is estimated to constitute a quarter of the world’s population by 2050. Nigeria is poised to surpass China as the second most populous country globally, following India, by 2100. Moreover, 70 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s population is under 30, positioning the continent with the potential to become one of the world’s largest consumer markets. Africa is a continent on the move.
This population’s energy, excitement, and untapped potential were vividly showcased at the inaugural Move Afrika: Rwanda event, which marked the launch of the first pan-African touring concert circuit headlined by international artists. The debut show in Rwanda alone employed over 1000 Rwandans and engaged 75 percent of the local crew and production staff. The event placed a particular emphasis on creating opportunities for skill development and international event training. As expressed by Kweku Mandela, the event set “a marker in the sand around live touring events and showcasing the creative economy on the African continent.” It serves as a model that other industries could emulate.
However, not investing in the continent poses profound risks in several ways. Firstly, if the current trajectory persists, Africa is set to have 23 out of the 28 countries with the highest share of extreme poverty in their population by 2030. Secondly, the challenge of rebuilding trust—highlighted as this year’s WEF theme—arises at a time when the relationship between African nations and the West is already at a new low. This decline follows years of broken promises on climate financing, vaccine hoarding by the West during the COVID-19 pandemic, and an ongoing perception of double standards and hypocrisy.
To advance, rebuild trust, and forge a common future, world leaders can commence in 2024 by prioritizing three critical investments in the future aspirations of the world’s youth:
1.Access to Healthcare:
Approving two new vaccines against malaria marked a significant turning point last year in the battle against malaria – a disease that is responsible for claiming the lives of over 1000 children per day.
The upcoming 12 months are critical for securing funding to advance large-scale distribution of these and other vaccines and bolster local manufacturing capacity in Africa to reinforce the continent’s public health security.
This urgency is heightened by the evolving threat of malaria due to climate change, putting more children worldwide at risk.
According to Gavi, the vaccine alliance, it costs a minimum of $16 to deliver a malaria vaccine. We have to reach 180 million children alone across Africa. 2024 must be the start of the end of malaria, alongside other efforts to reduce child deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases.
2.Skills & Education:
Young people need to be equipped with jobs and skills to take advantage of investments in industries like the creative arts, clean energy, and information technology.
However, conflict and other crises have resulted in more and more children bearing the brunt and missing out on education. That is why Education Cannot Wait, for instance, is seeking nearly $700 million to ensure the continuation of education for at least 20 million children currently without. This funding will help children learn across 19 countries in Africa alone.
In 2023, the world agreed to transition away from fossil fuels for the first time. 2024 is the year to begin to put this into practice – we have to reduce emissions by 7% annually through 2030 to avoid catastrophic climate change. Yet governments increased subsidies for fossil fuels to more than $1 trillion in 2022.
In 2024, redirecting these funds towards generating jobs for young people across Africa via clean energy projects and sustainable agriculture is crucial, ensuring that the world’s most youthful population reaps the benefits of this significant industrial transition.