AU Dialogue opens with a call to address youth challenges

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The 6th African Union’s High-Level Dialogue on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance opened in Tshwane on Wednesday afternoon with a call to find a speedy response to the challenges faced by Africa’s youth.

This as Africa faces the serious challenges of poverty, unemployment, inequality and terrorism. These challenges have been seen as the push factor for some ambitious and resilient youth from the continent who are dying trying to cross the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean Sea in search of greener pastures outside the continent.

Addressing the opening session of the dialogue on behalf of President Jacob Zuma, Public Service and Administration Minister Faith Muthambi said such scenes are an indictment on all of us.

“We must say, unequivocally, that our youth is our most precious asset and that the future of our youth does not belong in the belly of the Mediterranean but it is right here, in a prosperous Africa where they can play their rightful role as the custodians of a brighter future! Our young people are our greatest asset.”

Minister Muthambi said the continent should harness the potential of the youth as partners for the future.

This should be guided by the continent’s collective leadership in line with Africa’s blueprint for sustainable development, the AU’s Agenda 2063.  

“Youth participation begins with consolidating and promoting governance and the rule of law. Our democratic processes should endeavour to ensure that young people have a voice in the institutions of governance such as parliament. This is important because there can be no meaningful participation without representation.”

She said marginalisation and patriarchal discrimination affect the girl child differently from the boy child and this must be kept in mind.

“As we move towards advocating for youth participation, we must do so bearing in mind both strictures and structures of society in order to ensure that gender parity is achieved,” the Minister told the delegates which included over 350 youth leaders from across the continent.

The youth are convening in Tshwane to discuss how the African Union (AU) could better engage young people in the political process and create opportunities for them while supporting efforts to promote democracy under the theme: “Silencing the Guns: African Youth Building a Culture of Democracy and Peace in Africa”.

The consultation is part of the AU’s ongoing efforts to incorporate youth voices into discussions on democracy and peacebuilding.

The theme is important for the African continent is which is regarded as the “youngest” continent, with the majority of people under 35 years of age.

About 200 million people are aged between 15 and 24 in Africa. The current trend indicates that this figure will double by 2045, according to the African Economic Outlook report prepared by experts from the African Development Bank (AfDB), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). 

The question which arises is what are we doing as a collective in order to ensure an enabling environment is created for young people to prosper and build a sustainable future, Ghana’s former President John Dramani Mahama asked.  

“The youth is not only our future but they are our present reality, making them the drivers of the development of this continent as they are more educated than the past generations.”

With the world changing every day, Mahama said, the continent needs to instil the youth with the relevant skills to fully take advantage of the opportunities that the continent has to offer. He said the future of African youth does not lie in migrating to Europe but in a prosperous Africa.

“Lack of jobs is a demographic bomb. If we are not creating jobs fast enough, it’s a ticking time bomb which we have started seeing in some countries.”

AUC Commissioner for Political Affairs Samatee Cessouma said if Africa is to address the youth’s challenges, it needs to devise working strategies and approaches which will take into consideration their feelings.

“Many of them are levering their agency and leading change within the limits of their realities. However, the impact of their contribution is limited to due lack of transformation. We need transformation so that we can improve the socio-economic conditions of the content.”

The AU anticipates that the conversations during the two-day dialogue will contribute to the strategic and programmatic interventions aimed at facilitating the realisation of all the seven aspirations of the Agenda 2063 – Africa’s Development blueprint.

Ultimately, the dialogue will contribute to the realisation of Aspiration 6, which envisions “an Africa whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth and with well cared for children”. -

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