The idea that large numbers of young people in sub-Saharan Africa are stuck in waithood – trapped between childhood and adulthood – dominates international development policy discourse.
The belief is that because there are no jobs, young people cannot attain social markers of adulthood. Waithood has proved itself to be a very attractive way to frame debates and promote youth employment interventions. But research challenges two aspects of the waithood story: that young people are inactive; and that work is the only route into adulthood. Caution and nuance are required to prevent waithood becoming another catchy term that does little to improve policy.