Ogamba, Ikedinachi Kingsley (2017). 'Promoting Youth Participation and Mainstreaming for Socioeconomic Development: Lessons and Best Practices' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Cape Town 2017.


In recent decades, there has been an observed increase in intergenerational inequalities globally which has been linked issues of poverty, social mobility, political cohesion, social tolerance as well as health and economic impact on youth especially in the developing countries (DeSa 2013). This is confirmed by minimal resource allocation and low-level participation of young people in political, economic and social spheres of life. According to the national baseline youth survey report by the National Bureau of Statistics (2012), Nigeria has massive and growing youth population between the ages of 15 to 35 years who constitute over 64 million of the population, with more than half (54%) unemployed. Meanwhile, with an unemployment rate above the national average, the Southeast region of Nigeria has some of the most daunting statistics relating to youth development issues, which speaks only little of the problems as a large proportion of the youth are “under-employed” with increased health, psychosocial, political and economic vulnerability. Unfortunately, there have not been a commensurate effort by the government and other stakeholders to address the arrays of civil, political, economic, social and cultural factors that deter youth from realising their potentials.

The society is witnessing a paradigm shift in generational sociology as it transits from a dimension of sociocultural conflict of values to the dynamics of socioeconomic inequalities and power relation. Evidence from research and lessons from policy and programmes shows the need to build the capacity of youth themselves as agents to engage in confronting issues of exclusion and deprivations that drive inequalities at the various level and aspects of the society. Evidence also indicate need to increase active participation of youth in the socioeconomic governance and development so to create a more just and dynamic political economy that will serve as a bedrock for sustainable social change outcomes. Therefore, a focus on empowerment of youth with information and economic opportunities and engagement of relevant stakeholders in promoting youth participation and mainstreaming will serve as the key to an inclusive development.

Based on the situational context, Forward Africa (FOFA), a nonprofit development organisation based in Nigeria, designed and facilitated the implementation of an Integrated Programming to Improve Youth Development in Southeast Nigeria from 2011 to 2016, with the aim to build and strengthen partnerships with stakeholders for promoting youth development and wellbeing. The programme has two main subprojects: 1. Building and Expanding Partnerships with Stakeholders for Improving Young People’s Health and Development; 2. Youth Engagement for Socio-Economic Development (YEFSED). While subproject 1. focused partnering with the government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), civil society organisations (CSOs), media and other relevant stakeholders to address the various challenges of young people as it relates to their health, education, livelihood and policy advocacy for youth mainstreaming in various aspects of the society, subproject 2. Is about engaging the youth to increase demand for inclusion and promote active participation. Following needs assessment and analysis of the youth issues that limits their capabilities to be and do what they have value for in the society, a theory of social change was proposed for the project with key strategies including: 1. Capacity development and information sharing 2. Advocacy, stakeholders engagement and partnership building 3. Linkages, connections and mentorship 4. Institutional development and sustainability.

This paper presents the project theory of change for promoting youth participation and integration towards bridging the inequality gap in policy and socioeconomic development using the Capability Approach as a reference theory. The Capability Approach proposes the expansion of people’s freedom and opportunities to achieve ‘being and doing’ for which they value as important in any social arrangement (Sen 1999; Robeyns 2005). This implies that policy and project design, implementation and evaluation should involve removal of barriers and challenge that limit the freedom and opportunities to realise individual or group capabilities within their social, economic political and domestic environment (Biggeri and Ferrannini 2014). Secondly, this paper seeks to validate, correct or refute the theory of change based on lesson learnt and best practices from the project. In addition, to assess the extent to which the project has expanded the capabilities of the beneficiaries to be and do what they have value for and stakeholders’ commitment to youth mainstreaming. Finally, it shares indicators of success, lessons learnt and challenges that will inform social change programming for improving youth capabilities and challenging intergenerational inequalities.

The data for this paper has been collected through qualitative methods - interview, focus groups and desk review. Interviews were conducted with stakeholders in the project including partners and officials various government MDAs, CSOs, media, youth groups and the project staff team, while focus groups were conducted with youth beneficiaries and the youth focal persons in the project. The interviews and FGDs were facilitated by a research consultant, who also transcribed the responses. Data from the transcripts was coded and analysed independently using thematic analysis for patterns of similarities, dissimilarities and frequency, then findings are presented and discussed according to the identifies themes.

There still exist challenges of confidence and cooperation by some stakeholders on promoting youth agency freedom and capacity which pose limitations to their participation and realisation of their capabilities. However, progress, lessons and best practices indicate that an active participation and inclusion of youth in the political economy through improving their individual and collective capabilities is not only key to challenging intergenerational inequality and marginalisation, but is also pertinent to achieving sustainable growth and development.

Keywords:  Capabilities, intergenerational inequalities, participation, youth development

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