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Tamale’s Unemployed Youth; Easy Prey for Unscrupulous Politicians and Others?


Tamale, according to experts, is the fastest growing metropolis in West Africa. In the last twenty years, the city has undergone dramatic transformation with a surge in its population and a corresponding increase in the construction of houses, schools, health-clinics and financial centers. Much of this development is testimony to the wonderful things that could happen if government and the private sector join forces for the common good.

One segment of the city’s population that has seen an increase in its numbers is the young. The average age of this group is 18. Many are products of the local school system, but since the city doesn’t create enough jobs to absorb these graduates, unemployment among them is rife. In bygone days when jobs were plentiful, many of these young men and women could easily have filled openings in the industries that sprang up in the aftermath of the launching of ‘Operation Feed Yourself.’

It is worth noting that the fate of the young people of Tamale is not dissimilar to that of other young folks across the length and breadth of the nation, and in fact across the globe. In many parts of the world, young people are increasingly being shut out of the job market and this does not augur well for the countries concerned.  

In southern Europe, in the EU countries of Portugal, Spain and Greece, where the economies are struggling mightily, youth unemployment is frighteningly high. Disillusioned and despaired, many young people are taking advantage of the free movement of people and goods permitted under the EU constitution to move to the wealthy north, Germany in particular, in search of jobs and they are finding them.

But the youth of Tamale, unfortunately, do not have the option of moving to a wealthier West African nation for employment for obvious reasons; ECOWAS, the vehicle for economic cooperation in West Africa, of course, permits the free movement of goods and people, but the sad truth is that there isn’t one nation in the region that has defied the global recession and prospered like Germany.

Nigeria and Ivory Coast the region’s economic powers were once magnets for immigrants from the sub-region, but no more. Nigeria is mired in a religious upheaval and Ivory Coast is still recovering from a war that devastated its economy. So, what is an unemployment young man or woman in Tamale to do?

Stay put in a city that holds a lot of promises but offers none? Or move to the south where jobs are just as scarce? This is the dilemma facing so many young men and women in the city.  They are essentially caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Either stay and continue wallowing in poverty and all that it entails, or catch the first bus out of town and hope that your dreams of finding a job, any job in the south materializes.

The economic problems plaguing the north are complex and there are no easy solutions. The regional government can’t possibly provide immediate answers and the central government seem more detached as ever. However, if youth unemployment in Tamale is allowed to fester, the consequences in the long term could be devastating for the city and by extension, the nation.

You see, when young people have too much time on their hands, they become easy prey for unscrupulous individuals who ply them with money and gifts and at the appropriate time use them to further their goals, be it political, social or economic.

How many times have we seen politicians at the local and national level use young men to exact revenge on opponents?  Young men in Tamale have been mobilized in the recent past to beat up politicians, and to storm government offices and intimidate frightened public servants just so the politician could get his/her point across.

The most frightening fallout from youth unemployment is the possibility that extreme religious groups lurking in the “dark” could take the chance to pounce on our hapless young folks and recruit them into their groups for violent acts against society.

It is not too much to ask authorities in Tamale and Accra to intensify efforts to create employment opportunities for the youth. The benefits that accrue from young people holding jobs are enormous; social stability, national security and economic prosperity.



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