You don’t have to look very hard or far to see the promise and power of African youth to deliver solutions, positive change and prosperity. And yet, still, on a continent where people under the age of 35 are in the overwhelming majority, youth remain excluded from political leadership, inclusion in governance spaces and marginalized in national economies. The inter-generational divide is a modus vivendi that needs to be resolved to avoid repeated uprisings of marginalized youths.
Five years ago, the African Union convened a summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea around the theme, Accelerating Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development. One of the resolutions of that summit was a commitment by AU Heads of State to reduce youth unemployment by 2% a year. Efforts to reduce unemployment by 2% annually has not been successful; unemployment has been increasing every year since then.
In January this year, the AU again resurrected the youth agenda, convening the 28th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union Heads of States and Governments around the theme, Harnessing Demographic Dividend through investments in the Youth. This time around, promises to youth by the AU and development partners at this summit included the establishment of an African Youth Development Fund and an AU Youth Envoy’s Office.
These are encouraging goals put forth by the AU, which we hope will be implemented. But it’s not nearly enough. I have been actively engaged in professional youth work for 12 years, at all levels, and I dare tell you today, that talk about youth development in Africa is a mere lip service. We are not seeing national governments and development partners invest in youth for peaceful, secured and prosperous nations.
Why is that? Stereotypical perceptions of youth, politically and traditionally, as ignorant, problematic and useless have led to young people being excluded from decision-making processes – even on issues that they could solely deal with. Youth are virtually left with no room to learn by doing. African governments are busy looking for miracles to solve the problems in Africa. Yet the biggest miracle is right in front of them: African youth.
African youth need educational, employment and leadership opportunities to unleash their potential and act as vanguards for achieving the ‘’Africa We Want’’ by 2063 – as promoted in the Africa Agenda 2063 and UN Sustainable Development Goals.
They should be empowered with the necessary tools to transit from job seekers to job-makers. Agribusiness, Green and Blue Economy and entrepreneurship should be the new focus for young people to create wealth and escape youth poverty. As young people, we must propagate the culture of voluntarism and endeavour to undergo mentorship programmes.
The idea of microwave success has led some young people into illegal activities to earn a livelihood. National governments need to develop tailored programmes for young people to venture into the productive sectors of the economy.
The African Youth Charter (AYC) is intended to empower youth in Africa but there is an imperative need to ensure its implementation, local ownership and popularization. Strengthening the participation and inclusion of youth in the realization of Africa Agenda 2063, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, is critical.
The rate of irregular migration among African youths is alarming, disastrous and unacceptable. No doubt, the hostile political and socio-economic conditions created by some African governments shall continue to force their citizenry to undertake suicidal journeys to reach exile in what they believe to be democratic worlds. Our economic, financial and political systems are concentrating power and prosperity in the hands of a few, while increasingly marginalizing the African youth.
The only viable and sustainable way to promote lasting peace, justice and dignity is to have a mental migration from the ideals of Africa Rising to #AfricansRising. The IMF-coined term, Africa Rising, refers to GDP growth, which has not befitted ordinary Africans or improved their quality of life. The notion of Africans Rising is centred on the advancement of the people that inhabit Africa, rather than the countries that make up Africa. We need to inculcate in the minds of the African people and most especially the youth – who are not only the future leaders, but the leaders of today – the spirit of Ubuntu (humanity).
Peace, Justice and Dignity are universal values that should be vigorously promoted on the continent as the bedrock of the Africa Agenda2063. These values are integral to effective work on poverty alleviation and sustainable development, in addition to being valuable bulwarks against dictatorship, oppression and injustice.
Democracy promotes human rights and human dignity and it is therefore impossible to create a truly free, peaceful and humane world while ignoring or apologizing for the executors of totalitarian ideologies
My priority for actions during my tenure in office, will focus on the following key areas:
1. Education and Skills Development
-Special focus on Non-formal education and Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET). Quality and affordable education is a must.
2. Youth Employment and Economic Empowerment
– Special focus on the green and productive sectors of the economy through youth entrepreneurship (Youth in Agriculture, Eco-tourism, Renewable Energy and the Creative Industry).
3. Youth and Migration
Special focus on the irregular migration of African youths, mobility and rights issues related to migration, youth refugees and internally displaced youth.
4. Youth Participation in Governance, Peace-building and Youth Mainstreaming
Special focus on youth political participation and rights, youth in decision making processes, empowering young women in leadership positions, peace-building, youth extremism and radicalization and democratic inclusion of youth.
5. Environmental Sustainability and Climate Change
Special Focus on amplifying youth mitigation and adaptation actions at the grassroots and national levels, access to green climate fund and youth in disaster risk reduction and green revolution.
Issues of Gender, Violence Against Young Women and Girls, Health and well-being of youths, sports, youth with disabilities, African youth in Diaspora, Pan-Africanism and African cultural renaissance; will be our guiding principles, values and cross-cutting issues in the big fives. We shall champion and continue to commit to several existing youth initiatives at the sub-regional, regional and international levels.
Our proposed flagship initiatives:
1. Establishment of the African Youth Development Fund
2. African Youth Charter 360 Implementation Framework (ratification, popularization and domestication)
3. AU Campaign to Silence All Guns by 2020
We will work strategically with the African Union Commission, United Nations Agencies, Business Community, International Non-Governmental Organizations and Development Partners, Youth Organizations, and Civil Society Organizations to build solid partnerships and mobilize resources for youth development and empowerment in Africa.