LAFF Society


Challenges Threatening African Youth


Mora McLean has edited a collection of essays that provide “a transatlantic, transnational exploration of barriers that threaten the wellbeing of West African youth”.
The book, West African Youth Challenges and Opportunity Pathways, grew out of a Ford Foundation project begun in 2017, for which she was the principal investigator. At the time she was a senior fellow at the Cornwall Center at Rutgers University-Newark.
The book is available free online.
“West African youth classified as internal migrants (at times perceived as foreigners, even in their own country), or undocumented immigrants abroad,” she writes in her introduction to the book, “are in a situation where their safety and security is compromised.
“They are among the world’s most vulnerable ‘stateless’ populations—excluded from enjoying the benefits of citizenship, including access to educational resources that are critical to improving their life chances….
“Regardless of the route they take, or where they end up,” she writes, “West African youth who migrate (or emigrate) often find themselves in a double bind: on the one hand, increasingly clandestine and perilous passages expose them to life-threatening risk and exploitation; on the other, restrictive visa and immigration policies, anti-Black racism in Global North countries, and xenophobia in South Africa, further curtail their upward mobility.” 
The book’s contributors, working from varied viewpoints, illuminate the reality, she writes, that “the material challenges to well-being among African youth are real. With roughly 40% of the population under age 15 and a youth population aged 15 to 24 estimated at 226 million (or 40% of the world’s total, Africa has the fastest growing and youngest, population.” 
In a separate summary of the collection, she notes that, collectively, the contributors incorporate “themes of migration, vulnerability, and agency and aspirations” that convey “the resilience of African youth transitioning toward adulthood in a world of structural inequality”. The authors explored the challenges facing these youths in a variety of situations and a broad geographical range, from Black immigrant youth in Newark, N.J., to students in Almajiri Islamic schools in Nigeria. 
McLean worked at the Ford Foundation from 1986 to 1996 in the Human Rights and Social Justice and Africa and Middle East programs. She now is a researcher, writer, part-time university lecturer and President Emerita of the Africa-America Institute (AAI).



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