Understanding ‘Urban Youth’ and the Challenges they face in Sub-Saharan Africa: Unemployment, Food Insecurity and Violent Crime

Published on 30 June 2014

Much of Africa is urbanising fast and its young population is projected to constitute the largest labour force in the world. While urbanisation can be linked closely with economic development, we also know that it is the least developed countries that have younger populations than the rest of the world.

This duality implies that understanding the nature of risks and vulnerabilities faced by urban youth, how they are impacted by them, as well as how they respond to and may be resilient against them, continue to be important questions for furthering development in sub-Saharan Africa. A key conceptual debate surrounds how the category of ‘youth’ is understood, as several definitions of the term exist, ranging from age bands to social or cultural framings.

In this paper we look to review how the various definitions of ‘youth’ relate to three dominant discourses about poverty and vulnerability in urbanising Africa: (1) food insecurity; (2) unemployment/joblessness; and (3) violence/insecurity. By doing so, we seek to identify if and when these are responsive to youth needs and practical in terms of policy efforts aiming to reduce poverty and vulnerability in urban areas.


Jaideep Gupte

Research Fellow

Dolf J.H. te Lintelo

Research Fellow and Cities Cluster Leader

Inka Barnett

Health and Nutrition Cluster Lead

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published by
Gupte, J., te Lintelo, D. and Barnett, I.
IDS Evidence Report, issue 81


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Programmes and centres
Addressing and mitigating violence

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