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Dr. Adaeze Oreh in Global Issues: Why West African leaders should focus on tackling youth unemployment and gender inequality

Tackling youth unemployment and gender inequality could help ensure better COVID-19 recovery outcomes for West African countries, Amujae Leader Dr. Adaeze Oreh wrote in an op-ed for Global Issues.

The piece, co-authored by Dr. Oreh and fellow public health experts, highlighted three key areas where increased equity could help drive recovery. Firstly, a greater focus on dealing with youth unemployment would allow countries to harness their young populations to help grow “innovation-led…and value-adding” processes, which could not only accelerate advancements in the fields of medicine and science at a time of critical need, but could “lead to the creation of more jobs and economic growth” during COVID-19 recovery periods and beyond.

Secondly, the authors wrote, more young people should be encouraged to enter politics at all levels. Despite being the continent with the youngest population, “there is a vast disconnect between people and its leaders – age.” Noting that West Africa in particular “plays host to some of the ‘oldest and longest-serving political leaders’,” the authors argued that more young people in elective offices would mean that “entrenched systems of elder deference” that might hinder progress could be challenged.

Finally, gender inequity in leadership must be addressed. Women leaders are severely under-represented; the authors noted that no West African country currently has a woman head of state. Getting more women into elective offices would allow countries and their citizens to benefit from more inclusive, diverse—and possibly more effective—leadership. As was evidenced during the COVID-19 pandemic, “nations that were successful in containing the virus were mostly women-led.” According to the authors, there have been suggestions that women are more inclusive, resourceful, and empathetic leaders who tend to “prioritize the protection of their citizens over risk.”

With several African countries due to hold elections this year, the authors concluded the article with a quote from former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf emphasizing that:

“Now is the time to recognize that developmental transformation and true peace cannot come without fundamental change in who is leading and the ways of leading.”

Read the article, penned by Dr. Oreh, who is also the Country Head of Planning, Research and Statistics for Nigeria’s National Blood Transfusion Service, Dr. Ifeanyi Nsofor, the Director Policy and Advocacy at Nigeria Health Watch, and John Lazame Tindabil, the Executive Director of MABIA-Ghana, here.

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