With the phenomenon of neoliberal capitalism being the default world order, the material realities of the youth in Africa have been overwhelmingly unkind. The youth in Africa find themselves at the peripheries of millennial capitalism, with few opportunities coming their way. Armed with vast reserves of untapped potential, unemployment defines life for the majority of the youth in life. This is coupled with an existential crisis they face as they try to assert their voice in the global youth culture that has increasingly come to be defined by unbridled materialistic desires.
The youth in Africa, as with other parts of the world, face a gigantic generational crisis largely because they have been excluded from the “normative world of work and wages”. And because of this, the youth have come to shape their own separate world — a world replete with its own [informal] structures, modalities of politics, its own methods of production and recreation, and a virtual connectedness that is inspired more by consumerist envy. In essence, the youth in Africa have formed their separate economies as they try to find their space in the world.
With the advent of rapid technological advancements — smartphones and social media in particular — the youth in Africa find themselves in an abyss of mimicry as they try to keep abreast with the global trends that engender the individualism and narcissism that characterizes the default order of neoliberal globalization. The youth in Africa have become less concerned with their own cultural contexts in their relentless quests to register global recognition. For the youth in the contemporary epoch of postcolonial Africa, everything is marked with the desire for the “global to meet the local”. And this is understandable.
Because of this marginalization, the youth have adopted innovation in a manner that transcends the confines of what has been held to conventional by older generations — the latter being the perennial bastions of private capital. This private capital, which attracts the envy of the youth as they forge their innovation, is simply out of the reach of the youth. The innovation of the youth as they try to catch up with global trends and attempt to have a hold at the private capital held by the “parental generation” is more pronounced in cyber spaces — but this has also been accompanied with a lot of tension particularly for the less privileged in rural areas and in low-income urban areas.
The promises of the free market have simply excluded the youth, and as such the youth do not wince a bit in their quest to find better sources of livelihoods — they are engaged in the incivility and barbarity of neoliberal superstructures that are marked with high levels of illegality and lack of social protection/benefits. This has created a highly selfish youth that is not concerned with public interest and posterity. Such narcissism is destructive for the greater good of the continent. It is unsustainable and the leaders ought to rectify this by providing meaningful and contextual opportunities for the young in Africa.
It is imperative for the youth to be treated with kindness and empathy so that they contribute (without losing their own cultural relevance) positively to the national consciousness of their countries and the continent at large. The marginalization of the youth is unsustainable for the egalitarian development of Africa — and should thus be treated with a sense of urgency.