16 May 2007

'Enormous challenges faced by Africa's next generation': international conference

Young people need to be put at the centre of development in Africa, but the challenges are enormous. Children in the conflict-ravaged regions of Liberia and the Mano River basin have been turned into “premature adults” by decades of armed violence.

These are among the views of experts speaking at a conference on African Development and the Next Generation, organised by the International Development Centre (IDC) at The Open University on 16 and 17 May.

Elsewhere, even though progress has been made in opening access to education, it is of inadequate quality to prepare young people to meet a future of rapid change, they report.

And development strategies often fail to appreciate that Africa’s young people are a diverse group with differing needs according to age, gender and class.

Conference organisers have brought together more than 20 of the world’s most eminent academics, policymakers and educationalists in international development to look at what can be done to help young people in Africa play a full part in contributing to the establishment of peace, social inclusion and economic prosperity.

HIV/AIDS, power and governance and the role of universities are key conference themes.

The keynote address was given by Professor Mahmood Mamdani of Columbia University, who argued that much conflict in Africa stems from the political failure of most African countries to create a single citizenship bound by a single law which applies to all.

Professor Alcinda Honwana, Professor in International Development at The Open University, said there is an urgent need for more research on young people and development. “They form the majority of the population in Africa, but they are an under-studied group.”

There is also a need for research that better reflects African priorities and needs. “Africa is now the IDC’s priority, and we want to develop a significant research agenda in this area, in partnership with institutions in Africa. But the field is so wide, where do we start? We believe the conference will highlight some directions and areas of concern,” she added.

A conference objective is to build a research agenda on Youth and Development in Africa by scoping future research directions around African youth today, its relationship to the elders and its potential for addressing the challenges of development.

Editor's Notes
For details of the conference programme, contact The Open University's media relations team. Media interviews with conference speakers can be arranged.

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