Amanda Chukwudozie facilitates the African Young Researchers Program at the African Union Commission with support from PRB through the Supporting Population Evidence and Champions (SPEC) Project, funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Her work with youth researchers amplifies the skills and voices of young people to generate compelling evidence to advance youth health, education, development, and public participation in sub-Saharan Africa. We interviewed her to learn more about her work.

Amanda Chukwudozie, project officer at the African Union’s Youth Division, Science & Technology Department.

Tell us about the African Young Researchers Program and your work at the African Union Commission, Youth Division.

The Youth Division of the African Union Commission (AUC) recognizes the role of evidence generation in informing policies for youth development, which is even more crucial in this era of deliberate action to invest in youth to harness Africa’s demographic dividend (DD)—the rapid economic growth that can occur as a country’s age structure changes. My work is to curate and coordinate the creation of evidence targeted at policy advocacy, leveraging the research of partners towards common goals. This effort also entails the design and implementation of capacity-building programs so that youth researchers can generate the evidence needed to monitor progress towards shared goals.

The African Young Researchers Program (AYRP) is one such effort. As a program that through formal training and ongoing technical assistance engages a cohort of 15 young researchers to produce evidence on youth development, it is designed to meet multiple goals. During a year-long residency at the AUC, AYRP participants have the opportunity to take their research skills to the next level―collecting data and generating critical analysis about youth development, education, health, and participation across the continent. Beyond evidence generation, the AYRP fulfills the AUC’s mandate on youth empowerment, mainstreaming, and engagement, and builds the capacity of young researchers through strengthening their expertise and knowledge.

What do you feel is unique about the African Young Researchers Program?

The AYRP is a concrete action-oriented method of fostering youth ownership and promoting a “for us, by us” philosophy for development. The research space, like many other spaces in Africa, does not represent youth perspectives and contributions, and this program offers a platform to fill that gap at the level of the African Union (AU).

I understand the AYRP is working on a comprehensive new publication, the Status of Africa’s Youth Report. What information will be included and when is the report expected to be completed?

The Status of African Youth Report (SoAYR) will summarize information on Africa’s youth under the four pillars of the DD as identified by the AU Roadmap on Harnessing the DD Through Investments in Youth:

  • Employment and Entrepreneurship.
  • Education and Skills Development.
  • Health and Well-Being, and Rights.
  • Governance and Youth Empowerment.

Using the indicators developed under each of the pillars, the report will outline country profiles of youth development and analyze continental implications of Africa’s youth development status. Furthermore, it will provide a baseline for the Action Plan on African Youth Empowerment, which begins in 2019 and is the sequel to the African Youth Decade 2009-2018 Plan of Action of the African Youth Charter. Finally, the SoAYR will contain stories on innovation, creativity, and pan-Africanism in various AU Member States as a way of reporting on best practices that are potentially transferrable.

The SoAYR will be ready for public access by early 2019.

So far, what has been the greatest challenge to collecting cross-continental data to assess the status of Africa’s youth?

Because this is the first SoAYR since the implementation of the DD roadmap, and the second SoAYR overall, the growing pains are many. Perhaps foremost among them is the unavailability of standard data under the set indicators that have been established by our technical working group and, in some cases, a lack of age-disaggregated data. This lack of available data has necessitated a reliance on proxy data or, for some indicators, no data for many countries. To further complicate this data challenge, the difference in definitions of youth (ages 15 to 35 for the AU; ages 10 to 24 for the United Nations; different variants for some AU Member States) means that estimating accurate data to meet the AU’s age definition is quite challenging.

What stood out for you while researching information for the Status of Africa’s Youth Report?

The entire experience has been a learning curve due to the novelty of the process for the AUC, and since we are still collecting data at the time of this interview, it is difficult to comment on data content. But I will say that an interesting observation is the necessity for AU Member States to update the indicators on which they typically collect data. The transformation of Africa’s landscape to reflect global technological and employment trends is still not captured in traditional data collection by AU Member States. Furthermore, there is meager information on governance indicators. We see the lack of governance data as a finding in itself and aim to tailor advocacy to fill these gaps.

What action do you hope that policymakers will take after reading the Status of Africa’s Youth Report?

As expected, we hope that policymakers use these findings to update existing policies, programs, and interventions, and implement responsive new ones. But beyond this, we hope that policymakers also recognize the importance of evidence-based policies to efficiently allocate resources and facilitate optimal, effective results; and act towards instituting evidence structures in their policymaking processes for youth development.

Where will Amanda be in ten years?

Brokering knowledge for evidence-based policymaking in Africa.