Youth and poverty in Ghana
Ghana is one of the more stable and democratic countries in West Africa. However there is vast inequality in the country of 28 million – people in rural areas are considerably more impoverished than in the cities, and have not benefitted from economic growth from mining and petroleum. Despite employing nearly half of Ghana’s workers, agriculture only makes up about 20 percent of the country’s economy. Unemployment among youth is very high in Ghana –a problem because like so many countries in Africa, most of the population is young. Recent low oil prices have led to a rising public debt in Ghana, further limiting opportunities for youth.
What can improve the prospects for young people in Ghana? Oxfam and partner MUSE (a social engagement media brand) considered the 2016 presidential campaign, and asked how youth could get commitments from candidates to improve education, help small-scale farmers, and decrease youth unemployment. The campaign was non-partisan, and concentrated on the issues – the idea was to encourage young people to get involved and vote.
It was an audacious idea. Young Ghanaians are expected to defer to their elders. “There’s an expression in Ghana: me baaye akye, which means ‘I’ve been here longer,’” says Ruddy Kwakye, CEO of Muse. “It’s something that elders say to young people: Youth should leave things to those in their 60s and 70s… and older. In politics, you have to wait your turn.” This attitude discourages young people, Kwakye says. “They just say ‘even if I talk, they won’t listen, it’s a waste of time.’” Lack of political engagement by youth just makes it easier to ignore their concerns, making poverty more likely for young people.