The discussion was hosted by Shamima Muslim, the Founder and Convener of the Alliance for Women in Media Africa, and led by a panel of experts, including youth advisor Vera Addo, Mona Iddrisu, the head of Youth Employment and Skills at ACET, Golda Addo, the Founder of SheAid and BOSREN, Namatu Serumaga-Musisi, Fighter-General of the Economic Fighters League, Oliver Barker-Vormawor, Convener of Fix the Country, Bernard Avle, broadcast journalist and Head of News Programming at CITI FM, Samuel Gariba, Executive Director of Youth without borders, and Farida Bedwei, a software engineer at Microsoft. The panelists were joined by members of the audience for a wide-ranging discussion that touched on topics of constitutional reform, youth leadership skills, the education system, and above all the marginalization of Ghana’s youth and ways to include young people in shaping the future of the country.
The marginalization of Ghana’s youth
There was a strong consensus among the panelists about the marginalized position of Ghana’s youth in the economic, political, and social realms of power.
“Many people are not able to contribute at their most vibrant stage in life due to a lack of opportunities,” said Oliver Barker Vormawor. “This is damaging to Ghana’s future as youth is a time of high idealism and willingness to try new ideas, which can help move society forward.”
The panelists identified a number of factors that are driving this marginalization. Namatu Serumaga-Musisi emphasized the role of class struggle as a struggle for power over resources, access to platforms, and whose voice is heard. According to Serumaga-Musisi, the unbalanced power relationship, which also diminishes the voice of the youth, has become normalized through an acceptance of oppressive conditions.
Mona Iddrisu presented the conclusions of ACET’s research into Ghana’s education system, which shows that the current approach is failing to give young people the right skills to secure jobs and careers. Audience member Kofi Yeboah noted that there are simply not enough opportunities for the number of young people seeking them, with the few that are available being captured by the elites and requiring connections or payment to access.
Many panelists lamented the lack of choice faced by young people, and their sense of exclusion from the political system. According to Golda Addo “the basic necessities of life have been weaponized by politicians, depriving people of choices and leaving them too tired to represent their communities.”
The panelists suggested a number of actions that the Compact should support to build stronger youth leadership and engagement.
Samuel Gariba noted that the current Ministry of Youth and Sports has a small budget, and focuses more on sports than on youth issues. He called for a separate dedicated youth ministry, which should focus on providing skills development and opportunities for young people.
Vera Addo underlined the importance of recognizing the diversity of the Ghanaian youth, calling for more disaggregated data to help address challenges and build inclusive societies. Noting the even stronger marginalization of young women, Golda Addo emphasized the need to recognize the critical role women already play in society, urging more support to women running for leadership roles.
Several panelists, including Bernard Avle chided the ‘culture of dependency on savior figures’. Instead of waiting for a messiah, communities should drive change collectively, with strong youth voices at the center of initiatives like the Ghana Compact. According to Avle, “different actors, including media professionals, must play their part in creating change. Young people must challenge the ideas that have kept them where they are and use their platforms to change the way people think.”
While all participants acknowledged the need for constitutional reform, speakers offered different solutions and set contrasting priorities.
Audience member Yaw said the current constitution disenfranchises youth by setting age limits for positions such as member of Parliament and president. He argued that with over 60% of Ghana’s population being youth, democracy should reflect the rule of the majority. “The current constitution is outdated,” he said.
Oliver Barker-Vormawor stated that constitutional reform is a process that involves grounding the mandate for governance and social acceptance of a new vision of society, not just the amending of a document. He emphasized that the process should be driven by community engagement and not hijacked by elites. “We need to rethink our constitutional framework as more than just a set of laws,” he said. “It’s about the distribution of power and resources, values, and empowerment.”
Namatu Serumaga-Musisi took a stronger position on the need to completely overhaul the constitution, as it upholds class disparities through indemnity clauses that place some members of society above the law. She argued that the current system promotes marginalization of the masses and reduces civic engagement to a vote every four years. “The people are deprived of real choice and power, with the system benefiting only a few,” she said. “It is unthinkable for any democratic-minded person to argue for advancing a constitutional review instead of a new constitution born out of elected constituent assemblies.”
National Consultations and the Compact for Ghana
The Twitter Spaces event on Building a Secure Future for the Ghanaian Youth was an important step in the process of national consultation for the Compact for Ghana. The next steps include citizen engagements in partnership with CSOs to capture voices from all walks of life, with the aim of building consensus and creating a people’s manifesto that tells leaders and political parties what the people want and demand. The youth must lead and have their voices heard in this process. The Compact is modeled for the medium to long term and targets are ultimately for young people. It is a step towards building a future where we set targets and hold leaders accountable.
Each speaker shared their dream for Ghana’s youth. Share your dream and join us in continuing these conversations using the hashtags #GhanaCompact and #TheFutureWeWant.
What is your dream for Ghana’s Youth?
Vera Addo, Youth advisor:
I dream of a Ghana where there is equal justice for all. A Ghana where there is equal opportunity for everyone – children, women, girls, older people – and where everyone can access the basic necessities of life, such as electricity, water, and healthcare.
Mona Idrissu, head of Youth Employment and Skills at ACET:
I want to see a Ghana where we are not failing young people. A Ghana that is creating an environment for young people to fully realize their potential, regardless of what they want to do with their lives. A Ghana that accepts young people for who they are, and we are not failing, even right from birth, so quality maternal care for babies, for mothers and young children, all the way till they are young adults.
Golda Addo, Founder SheAid and BOSREN:
What I dream for the youth of Ghana is for them to be given their due, but also for them to always remember that power is never given. It’s taken.
Namatu Serumaga-Musisi, Fighter-General of the Economic Fighters League:
The Ghana that I look forward to is a Ghana where people are represented by their own in governance, in which every demographic is proportionately represented, allowing for the people who make the future to be the people who have the same aspirations as those who live it.
Oliver Barker-Vormawor: Convener, Fix the country:
I dream of a Ghana where empathy leads, where the industry, curiosity, and even impatience of young people is affirmed and validated. A Ghana were even our best ideas, no matter how sacrosanct they may seem, are accepting of challenge and pushback.
Samuel Gariba: Executive Director, Youth without borders:
I dream of a Ghana where it is not disadvantageous to be a young person compared to other people in the world. The youth in Ghana should have same level of knowledge, same level of advantage, same level of resources, care and sense of pride – the sense that you belong to a nation – as you can find everywhere.
Bernard Avle: Broadcast journalist and Head of News Programming, CITI Fm:
I dream of a Ghana where people are free to think free to talk and free to thrive.