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Africa's Youth Bulge and National Security

PI: Parfait Eloundou-Enyegue, Cornell University

Year selected for award: 2016

Africa's Youth Bulge and National Security

Principal Investigator: Parfait Eloundou-Enyegue, Cornell University

Co-Investigators: Sarah Giroux, Cornell University

Year of Award: 2017-2021

Managing Service Agency: Army Research Office

Project Description:

We study the socioeconomic and policy conditions under which the youth bulges currently observed throughout sub-Saharan Africa become an asset (demographic dividend) versus a security risk (via a radicalization of youth). In theory, a youth bulge is a neutral demographic force. It becomes a security risk only when a large generation of youth fails to be integrated economically, socially, and politically. Our study is designed to analyze these processes of integration. Its main goals are as follows:

GOAL 1: Description. The project will assess the magnitude and scope of security risks associated with youth bulges in sub-Saharan Africa. This requires two sets of information. The first is a demographic description of the size and duration of youth bulges. The second is a behavioral account of rates at which youth are integrated (vs. marginalized economically, socially, and politically) and how this integration depends on existing policies and structural conditions. By combining these two sets of data, we can estimate how many youth are at risk of marginalization. We can therefore map the region’s vulnerable spots based on the confluence of adverse demographic and socioeconomic conditions. Additionally, we can chart in detail how risks emerge in the life-course, as youth transition from school/adolescence to work/adulthood.

GOAL 2: Causal analysis. We will identify the key correlates and root causes of radicalization. We are mostly interested in causes that are both rooted in theory and relevant to policy: they derive from known theories of risk and security; and they address factors that are amenable to policy intervention.

GOAL 3: Policy recommendations. The project’s findings will generate recommendations to contain the security risks associated with youth bulges. We have a strong platform to share findings with national, regional, global development circles, using our policy connections and building on our past work in this general area.