Empowerment of Youth in Africa: the role of a new generation of African leaders in the economic, soc


It is often said that there is not one Africa but many Africas, as the diversity of the continent is so complex and distinctive economically, socially, and politically. It is also said that African solutions must be found for African problems, and that the one model fits all are no longer a long-lasting solution for never-ending problems.

This provisional paper aims to be assessed as an academic policy-oriented contribution for further discussing the issue of youth empowerment in Africa, raising awareness on how the role of a new generation of African leaders must cope with the challenging economic, social, and political implications of the continent’s development.

Consciously, the title of this provisional paper tends to focus the approach on the African youth and not on NATO’s efforts towards their empowerment. However, throughout the following pages we assume that this is a reciprocal process and that all actors, both internal and external, must be identified in order to rethink the role of a new generation of African leaders in the economic, social and political development of the continent. By boosting its regional security cooperation, NATO might be a key pivotal and security provider in safeguarding stability, security, and peace in Africa.

In fact, with respect to NATO, this open paper argues that institutional divergences between eastern (namely the Baltics, more concerned with Russian hybrid actions) and southern (e.g. Portugal, France, Spain, Italy, Greece…) allies may explain the institutional shortage of clear-cut strategic focus on the south. The NATO 360-degree approach to security matters has attempted to effectively balance eastern and southern threats, but when envisaging an increased role for NATO, it is also worth exploring the role that a new generation of young African leaders can play in building the economic, social, and political resilience of the continent. For that purpose, this open paper suggests an institutional roadmap for Youth Empowerment driven by three E’s - (Formal and non-formal) Education, (Qualified) Employment, and (Political and civic) Engagement - including a set of policy-oriented prospects, recommendations and take aways on how NATO can explore, renew or reshape its engagement with Africa.

In addition, as the outbreak of COVID-19 has created job losses, reduced per capita incomes, and disrupted economic growth all over the world, it is also worth mentioning its impact on Africa. Both the defining challenges and opportunities will be a recurring theme in this open paper, concluding that NATO must rethink and pay more attention to the south, contributing to Africa’s economic growth and development and empowering the role of youth in leading the rapid transformation of the continent.

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