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Ghana's Youth Organize to Increase Political Voice


Governments throughout West Africa have struggled to solve problems affecting their youth including unemployment, clandestine migration, and trafficking. In Ghana, organizers of a national youth conference on Monday said youths can help solve these problems, but only if governments are ready to listen. Phuong Tran brings us this report from VOA's West Africa Bureau in Dakar.

Hundreds of youths from across Ghana met in Accra at a meeting hosted by Yes Ghana, a network of Ghanaian youth-service organizations, and the United Nations. Yes Ghana's coordinator Emmanuel Edudzie says even though African governments say they want to help youth, they are often afraid of mobilizing them.

"Young people in Africa are associated with chaotic incidences. People feel very much uneasy to bring them on board," said Edudzie. "It is also a cultural problem. In Africa, there is always the tendency that the adult is always right and must decide for the younger generation."

But Edudzie, 27, says his peers see how adults are not always right, how they do not have all the answers.

Yes Ghana hosted its first youth development dialogue with support from the United Nations. Its theme was "Be seen, be heard: Youth Participation for Development."

During workshops about unemployment, youths spoke of their frustrations and feeling ignored by policy-makers.

Ghana's newly appointed Minister of Employment Nana Akomea talked about entrepreneurial training as a potential solution.

According to government reports about one million people from Ghana's population of 18 million are looking for work in Ghana, many are youths.

Youth unemployment is considered a major factor fueling clandestine migration as thousands of West African young people attempt dangerous sea crossings to Europe.

Coordinator Edudzie says young people no longer want to wait for policy-makers to decide their futures.

"We are no longer calling on governments to bring youth to the table. We young people are going onto the table whether people like it or not," he added.

But he admits it is not just a problem of government officials and donors who do not pay attention to youth.

The coordinator says, if given the power, many youths would not know what to do.

According to the United Nation's ranking of living conditions, Ghana scored better than many of its West African neighbors, scoring 136 out of 177 countries

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