More than half of young Africans have expressed their intention to emigrate in the coming years, as attitudes shift considerably from previous polling conducted at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to an African Youth Survey of 15 African countries, 52 percent plan to move abroad in the next three years — an earlier poll from 2020 showed that more than two-thirds of young people wanted to stay in their home country.
Although the survey does not specify where most Africans want to go, Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s conservative League Party, warned that over 20 million Africans may be headed to Europe due to a looming food crisis sparked by the war in Ukraine. A Pew Research study in 2018 indicated that already a million sub-Saharan Africans moved to Europe since 2010, which does not include migration from North African nations. Those numbers are only set to accelerate over the coming years.
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Another survey from the United Nations found that 90 percent of Africans who entered Europe illegally were happy they made the journey, indicating that many have no plans to ever return to their homelands.
Factors contributing to the pessimistic views of the continent’s future include Covid-19, climate change, instability, and violence. The former optimism of a large group of young people to migrating has been dampened by a lack of access to financing and opportunities, for which they blame the elderly leadership of their countries, according to Czech news outlet IDNES.
“A lot of people, especially from the middle class, say they don’t have much to invest in here, so they want to go abroad,” said Cholud Chairova, founder of the Sudanese think tank Confluence Advisory. According to her, there is a massive outflow of young people, a process that further reduces the country’s ability to implement the necessary political and economic framework, leaving the state in a vicious cycle.
According to the survey, only 32 percent of the 4,500 young people aged 18-24 were optimistic about Africa’s prospects, down 11 percent from the previous 2020 survey.
Young people dominate Africa’s demographic profile
“For many African countries, this year will see an election or pre-election, so it makes sense that people will view instability as a problem,” said Ivor Ichikowitz, whose South African family foundation commissioned the report. Many young people have also dropped out of school due to the pandemic, and their families have lost their income because of it.
In almost all countries, at least two-thirds of young people thought their country was moving in the wrong direction. The two exceptions were Rwanda and Ghana, where 60 and 56 percent of young people were optimistic about their country’s prospects.
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Respondents from Nigeria and Zambia, on the other hand, ranked last. Opinions regarding the prospects of the continent as a whole were more divided — only in Ghana did most respondents believe that Africa was moving in the right direction.
About 60 percent of Africa’s population is under the age of 25 with more than a third between the ages of 15-34. By 2100, Africa is predicted to have the youngest population in the world, with an average age of just 35.