Why Has Afro-optimism Decreased By Double Digits?

Most comprehensive survey of Africa’s youth finds strong concerns about the future of continent, but Afro-optimism, personal and entrepreneurial ambitions remain high, and job creation, governance and climate change are top priorities 

  • 11% dip in Afro-optimism since 2020 (32% today versus 43% before COVID) 
  • Only 28% feel confident about future of their country, 34% about future of Africa
  • An astounding 78% plan to start their own small business in the next five years
  • 86% of youth concerned about availability of well-paying jobs
  • Only 55% of youth are confident their governments will be able to access adequate supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, while 39% say they do not intend to get vaccinated even if the possibility exists
  • 85% believe more needs to be done to fight climate change
  • 77% see China as the strongest foreign power on the continent, eclipsing the United States which in 2020 held this role
  • 74% view democracy as always the preferable kind of government
  • 50% believe that terrorism has impacted their daily lives 
  • More than half (52%) are planning to emigrate in next few years 

Africa’s youth have weathered the COVID-19 pandemic and are committed to achieving the dream of an African century, even as concerns about infectious disease, access to well-paying jobs and political stability persist, according to the second, landmark African Youth Survey commissioned by the Ichikowitz Family Foundation, a leading African foundation focusing on active citizenship, youth empowerment and conservation. 

“Afro-optimism,” a trend noted among young Africans in the benchmark study, has decreased by double digits (11%); however, other indicators point towards strong currents of resilience and ambition.

By 2030, an estimated[1] 42% of the world’s youth will be African. This survey offers a wealth of insights into how young Africans plan on building a better future for themselves, their countries and the continent that ties them together. 

Originally launched in 2020, the African Youth Survey is a first-of-its kind, in-depth exploration of how young people, the demographic driving Africa’s becoming the fast growing population on earth, view themselves and the world around them.  Conducted across 15 African countries – Angola, Congo-Brazzaville, DRC, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan, Uganda, and Zambia – by the leading global polling firm, PSB Insights, who conducted more than 4,500 face-to-face interviews, the study has become an authoritative source for understanding the opinions of Africa’s rising generation.

Resilience and ambition in the face of challenge

COVID-19 fits into the paradigm of key concern (45%), together with political instability (15%), the digital revolution (9%) and endangered democracy (9%) cited as having had the biggest impact on the continent over the last 5 years.

Young Africans today are nonetheless anxious to re-open their economies, create jobs and start their own businesses.

  • COVID-19: 37% had to stop or pause their schooling, 19% became unemployed, 37% believe young people are immune, 39% do not plan to take the vaccine, and 58% believe the death toll has been exaggerated in order to promote political agendas.
  • Employment: 86% worry whether they will be able to garner well-paying jobs, most acutely in Kenya (94%), Zambia (94%), and Ghana (93%). 

69% are dissatisfied with their government’s job creation efforts.

  • Entrepreneurship & Personal Ambitions: While only 30% of respondents call their current standard of living “good” – an 11-point fall since 2019 –77% expect that condition to improve over the next two years. 78% plan to start their own businesses in the next five years.

Committed to protecting their environment & place in the world

Underlying hope and resolve about Africa’s future persist since before COVID-19, although Afro-Optimism has taken a marginal hit on par with other countries[2]. Challenges like political stability and the effects of climate change also continue, though more young Africans see themselves ‘in the game’, as two-thirds say their governments are listening to their voices.

  • Afro-Optimism: Respondents are more optimistic about Africa’s prospects (34%) than those of their own country (28% on average). Faith in the African Union (82% favorable) remains the strongest of any multi-lateral or external actor when it comes to shaping the continent’s future.
  • Foreign Relations: China is seen as having the greatest external influence on Africa (77%), overtaking the United States (67%), and European Union (62%). Lingering colonialism is seen by the 62% who believe that foreign companies are taking Africa’s resources without benefitting Africans.
  • Security & Stability: A disturbing three-fourths of respondents expressed concern about political instability, and 53% reported a markedly high level of concern. 68% are worried about terrorism and an alarming 15% have been contacted by a terrorist group – or know someone who has.
  • Climate Change: 72% are concerned about climate change, only 46% are satisfied with government’s handling of it, while 84% are calling for green energy solutions, expressing high levels of dissatisfaction with government action on climate change 
  • Environment: Alarmingly, 34% in 2022 still find it difficult to access clean water, 33% rely on bottled water and 35% spend more than a quarter of income on buying clean water. 52% has witnessed an increase in the poaching of wildlife, while 27% say that their communities benefit from income generated by poaching. 

Many see the need for more responsive governance

With the world’s fastest-growing youth demographic, Africans are demanding more from their governments. 

Expectations are high: 28% – a plurality – consider creating well-paying jobs to be governments’ top priority, only 52% believe their country treats everyone equally under the law, and 22% see Africa’s greatest priority moving forward to be fighting government corruption.

  • Connectivity & Media: 71% of respondents see Wi-Fi as a fundamental human right, yet one out of three polled presently has no access to the Internet outside of work. 62% find mobile data to be too costly, with 23% not being able to afford mobile data at all; only 13% can afford data at all times 
  • Democratic Ambitions: While 74% prefer democracy to any of its alternatives, over half (53%) say a Western-style version of governance may not be suitable in the African context and that Africans must find their own solutions. Only 18% are interested in running for office.
  • Equality: Almost half of respondents (47%) have experienced discrimination, and a whopping 83% say their country should do more to protect ethnic minorities, while another 81% are concerned about gender-based violence.

“Now for a second time, the comprehensive African Youth Survey has not only shined a light on the continent’s greatest resource – our rising generation – but it has also provided leaders in African countries, together with multi-lateral players and foreign nations wishing Africa well with actionable intelligence and a road-map of needs and priorities for 2022 and beyond,” Ichikowitz Foundation Chairman, Ivor Ichikowitz, stated. 

“By 2050, it is projected that one out of every four people in the world will be African. Much like our findings, the numbers don’t lie. Whether we find continued impasse or détente between the East and West, Africa’s rise is self-assured, and we will be choosing our investment partners wisely and without past influences.”

“We ultimately intend for our survey to be serving as a critical and contemporary mapping exercise for all to utilize in order to advance what we still know will be the African century.”

In her preface to the full report (link), Chido Cleopatra Mpemba, Special Envoy on Youth to the Chairperson at the African Union (AU), reflects:

“The African Youth Survey of 2022 is a critically valuable resource, not only to advocate for youth such as myself, but also for policy makers all over Africa. In concrete terms, it gauges the optimism, the entrepreneurial spirit, and attitudes across a range of hot-topic issues shared by my generation.  While we may know these things intuitively, it is important to analyze the data and allow it to inform us as we craft solutions for the future of our continent.”

“Tomorrow belongs to us, but only if we seize the opportunity,” she concluded.

The African Youth Surveys 2020 and 2022 have interviewed nearly 9,000 young Africans through quantitative, face-to-face interviews, across 19 countries to provide scientific data. 

While its 2020 benchmark report helped reset the global narrative on Africa, this most recent tracking survey underscores the persistence of the ‘can do’ African spirit, awareness of what is needed to secure Africa’s place in the world, and the will to improve on current circumstances.  

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