The number of young people in the region aged between 15 and 29 years is swelling; now making up to approximately 60 percent of the population.
At the same time, youth employment has been on the decline. What is more, there has been an increase in rural to urban migration and today approximately 67 percent of the COMESA population lives in the rural areas, down from over 74 percent two decades ago.
Secretary-General, Mr Sindiso Ngwenya, made this revelation in his presentation earlier this week on “Making the Un-bankable Bankable (Financial Inclusion of the Poor)” in Swaziland. He emphasized the need for the involvement of the youths in financial and economic activities as a way of mitigating conflicts and in overall development.
“A quick look at the statistics of the COMESA region shows that there is a growing youth bulge over the last two decades. This situation has, especially in the past presented an opportunity for warlords and even politicians to recruit youths into destructive activities instead of channeling their high energy and commitment to activities that can support economic development for the region,” he said.
He added that it is extremely important and also urgent to put in place well coordinated and easily accessible volunteer programmes to absorb the youths, give them something to do while at the same time providing them with training that will be useful to them in future.
“Also when given an opportunity, the youths have been able to produce ideas that have led to some of the major innovations that have changed the world and we need to find ways to encourage innovation, including financing, to allow them to put the ideas into programmes.”