Building our future, saving our youth

Building our future, saving our youth

Youth is supposed to be a time of excitement, possibility and hope, a time without the worries of adulthood, when we have the freedom to plan and build for the future. Unfortunately, the youth of Ghana are being robbed of these possibilities, denied the opportunities afforded to previous generations, including my own.

Employment is about more than a job, it is about having dignity, freedom and being self-sufficient. It is human nature to want to support oneself, to not be a burden to society, but in order to make that happen the government must provide the opportunity to do so, to help our youth to get their foot in the door. As more and more young people are joining the work force, we must apply a strategic approach to job creation, to make sure that our nation’s future – our youth – are not being left behind.

I’m the son of a humble stonemason, but thanks to the sacrifice and generous help of my father, uncle and extended family I was able to receive an education, and through their hard work and my own I was able to work my way up to where I am today.

I am immensely grateful for the success I have achieved, and knowing the humble beginnings from whence I came, I feel a great responsibility towards the younger generation, to make sure they will have the same opportunities as I did to make something of themselves and change their life for the better.

There is currently a massive brain drain in this country, where are best and brightest young people leave Ghana in search of opportunity, because there is none on our shores. As our youth leave school, they don’t have hope for gainful employment, so those who are able to seek opportunity abroad do so, while others fall into unemployment and poverty, living hour-by-hour without any ability to plan for the future.

The political remedy to this issue is two-fold: the first is to incentivize companies in hiring Ghanaian youth, whether it be unskilled labor or newly graduated academics. We achieve that by offering companies tax breaks for hiring people aged 18-36, thus making youth employment profitable for companies. While the state will carry part of the cost of those wages, the cost of unemployment is a tremendous economic and social burden on our society, with hardship that cuts across and is inherited through generations.

Secondly, we need to create new jobs that will cater to both unskilled laborers and the academically inclined, so that we avoid creating a two-tiered society where higher education is the only way to succeed.

By making comprehensive infrastructure investments across the country, which will provide employment opportunities for both unskilled labor and newly graduated academics from across the professional spectrum, we would not only be saving one generation but building a Ghana that is fit to serve many more – a modern, well-built Ghana, with roads, bridges, buildings and railways fit for a growing country, filled with hope and confidence.

Ghana is suffering from a youth unemployment epidemic, and we must act. Over 60% of this country are under 36 years of age, the youth is literally the future of this country, and we are sacrificing our collective future by ignoring their needs. It is said that we do not inherit the earth, but merely borrow it from our children, and we owe it to them to do better, to allow them to dream, flourish and grow.

A combined youth employment- and infrastructure package should be at the top of the agenda for the next government, because we have no time to lose. It is unworthy a country like Ghana to have foreigners employed while our youth is suffering, and it is equally undignified to have our infrastructure crumble before our eyes. We can solve both by making them a priority, and we can literally build our future while saving our youth.

My father built with his hands and through his toil, I was allowed to build things with my mind, to create and succeed through ingenuity and entrepreneurship. I never take that journey for granted, nor does a day pass that do not thank God for the opportunities I was given.

I was lucky to be allowed to dream of a better life and make it happen, and I want every young person in Ghana to have a chance at achieving the Ghanaian dream, a real opportunity at making something of themselves so that they can help build, run and better this great country. We owe this to our children, and we owe it to ourselves.

>>>the writer has vast knowledge in public administration. He was a former Bank of Ghana Governor, former Finance minister and currently the Founder and President of Institute of Fiscal Studies Ghana. (IFS).

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