Giving Compass' Take:

• Witney Schneidman explains that leadership and development programs are emerging for young Africans so that they have the means to strengthen their economic growth and opportunities. 

• How can philanthropists help contribute to growing the resources for Africa's youth leadership initiatives? 

• Read about the six African youth activists you should know about.

Of the many statistics that define Africa’s complexity, this may be the most important one: With 200 million people between ages 15 and 24, Africa has the youngest population in the world. This demographic is expected to double by 2045.

The question is whether Africa’s youth population is a “ticking time bomb,” a concern expressed by Zambia’s finance minister, Alexander Chikwanda, or, if the continent’s demography will contribute to sustained economic growth and diversification.

Despite fast economic growth from 2000 to 2015, the absolute number of poor has increased in Africa and about 70 percent of young people live below the poverty line.

Engaging Africa’s youth is therefore critical, and has to become a top policy priority for African governments and other stakeholders. It is encouraging that some progress has been made. For example, the African Union’s theme for 2017 was “harnessing demographic dividends through investment in youth.”  A step in this direction occurred last month in Johannesburg, when 200 young leaders from across Africa gathered for the inaugural meeting of the Obama Foundation Leaders: Africa program.

A recent study by the African Union and the OECD found that government action is key to overcoming challenges related to growth, jobs, and inequalities. Elemental to this is the need for government institutions to deliver services efficiently and to create a regulatory environment that fosters development, economic growth, and job creation for today’s youth.

Young leaders need to become change agents in the public and private sectors in order to ensure that the continent’s youth population contributes fully to the region’s progress.

I have personally observed the positive impact of youth leadership initiatives in Africa, as a member of the Global Advisory Board of IREX, a nonprofit organization that manages YALI’s Mandela Washington Fellows program, and a board member of Emerging Public Leaders.

Read the full article about investing in Africa's youth by Witney Schneidman at Brookings.