The definition of “National Security” is ever changing, as its framework is based on the study of human evolution and behaviour. There have been many factors serving as contributors to the threats to states and population, including armed conflict, xenophobia, gang violence, terrorism, religious extremism and sectarian violence, which are fervently featured in the media.
However, there is another threat, somewhat mundane which seldom catches the public’s attention. This danger which has eluded many governments for far too long is the threat of youth unemployment.
The threat of youth unemployment is the source of a series of social and, in extension, political problems countries can face. Unemployment is an indicator of several possible malfunctions and lawlessness as far as public policy or the very structure of a society and an economy are concerned. The relatively high rates of criminal activities, and the consequent state failure which increases the risk to national security could be exceedingly attributed to the high youth unemployment. Alexander Chikwanda, Zambia’s Minister of Finance, puts the issue more succinctly; “Youth unemployment is a ticking time bomb,” which now appears to be perilously close to an explosion.
The case of Egypt is an illustrative example of the impending issue. The euphoria of Cairo’s Tahir Square has long died down and, despite its burgeoning democratic developments and a newly elected government, the country faces immense challenges on the domestic front. While there have been slight improvements in the social construction of Egypt, public security has deteriorated since the revolution.
The story of Africa’s growth opportunities is told alongside its worrisome youth unemployment problems and the continent’s fast-growing population. It’s estimated that over 200 million Africans are between the ages of 15 and 24; making Africa the youngest population in the world. According to the African Economic Outlook (2012), this figure is expected to double by 2045.
The World Bank in its current report on jobs in Ghana has disclosed that about 48 percent of the youth in the country, who are between 15 – 24 years do not have jobs. The report further questioned the country’s preparedness in dealing with the youth bulge in the coming decades.
The causal link between unemployment and crime has been highlighted by many criminologists, even though some believe it’s a thin line. According to Watts, R. et al.,( 2008) in their book titled; International Criminology; A Critical Introduction, they emphasised that a nation’s increasing crimes and violence rates would only be reversed if new employment programmes were established and existing ones revised and if there was greater social equity and justice. It further reiterated that; unemployment and financial hardship encourage people to commit a crime to alleviate their material hardship.
It was further echoed by Glover, C., (2013) in his book, Crime and Inequality, where he argued that unemployment and material deprivation cause one to engage in crimes and violence.
It is highly likely today that many people in Ghana would accept as a matter of logical reasoning, that unemployment causes crime.
Unemployment causes poverty, and that destitution creates insecurity. In a nation where many people are unemployed and there’s no strong and organized social welfare system, there’s prevalence of poverty.
Poverty in turn drives some people to channel their energies into committing crimes as a means of livelihood and as they do this, they endanger lives and property in the society and raise the cost of governance.
The recent recruitment by the Ghana Immigration Service where over 15,000 people turned up to be screened for only 500 spots is indicative of the rate of unemployment in the country. This obviously increases year on year due to the fact that only about 10% of graduates who enter the job market each year are able to secure jobs in the first year after graduation.
The questions to ask are; how do these young people survive? If they look for jobs and no breakthrough seems to happen, what do we think is the next step for them? What’s the age group of those caught committing violent crimes like armed robbery journey?
Recently, some criminals alleged to be ISIS members were arrested with grenades at Odorkor, a group of armed robbers overrun the Kwabenya Police Station to free colleagues and killed a police officer on duty. Reports also indicate that Bantama in Kumasi has also recorded an increase in robbery cases and in Aflao over 13 suspected robbers were arrested recently, not to forget the 15 suspects rounded up in the murder of a police officer at Abeka Lapaz in Accra. All of these cases are indicative of the fact that unemployment is a genuine threat to national security.
National security, poverty and unemployment are the most prominent problems facing most nations of the world today since they are impediments to social progress and lead to waste of human and material resources.
It is therefore crucial for the government to deliver big on its socio-economic policies and also restructure its processes to reduce poverty and unemployment in the country. Key to this agenda will be the effective execution of the one district one factory agenda, and other enterprising projects that will create employment for the youth.
Government should also empower and continue to create the right environment for existing businesses and start-ups to thrive in this competitive global market. A healthy and growing economy also attracts foreign direct investment which also helps in reducing unemployment.
The causal links between unemployment, poverty and national security cannot be under-estimated and the earlier the government starts addressing the issue of unemployment and poverty in the country, the earlier it will help reduce the country’s security challenges. It would also promote a sustainable economic growth that creates a platform for the youth to achieve their goals through productive employment and enterprise development to fulfil the United Nations Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs).
About the writer
Gerald Sintim-Aboagye is a former British Army Official and the Director of S4L Consult, a policy consulting firm that provides security to individuals, corporate institutions and other security agencies.
He served for over a decade in the British Army and has a wealth of experience in foreign relations, peacekeeping, security, and counter-terrorism, after completing tours of duty to Afghanistan, Iraq, Germany, Poland, Canada, Cyprus and many other hotspots.
He’s currently an MA Student at Staffordshire University, U.K majoring in Terrorism, Crime and Global Security.
His focus is to provide expert advice in tackling some of the impending threats on the African continent and in mobilising the grassroots to curb the unrest and the risk of conflicts, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.
He can be reached via; firstname.lastname@example.org