From 24 -27 April 2019, the African Union Commission convened a huge Youth Forum – the second of its kind for the young people of the African continent and an initiative by the Chairperson of the Commission, His Excellency Moussa Faki Mahamat. Her Excellency Prof. Sarah Anyang Agbor, African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology graced the occasion with her dynamism. There were also a considerable number of private sector leaders, development partners, high profile innovators, and youth co-creators. Civil society organisations and the African diaspora were also well represented. The Deputy Chairperson of the Commission, His Excellency Quartey Thomas Kwesi and other Commissioners also honoured the occasion.
CAFOR was represented in full force by members of the CAFOR Secretariat in Addis Ababa and a couple of young CAFOR members in Ethiopia and elsewhere in Africa. I was also there with one member of the Executive Board of CAFOR, Dr Olubunmi Owoso from Nigeria. Two other members of the Executive Board of CAFOR, Commissioner Prof. Sarah Anyang Agbor, also a key organizer of the Forum as AUC Commissioner, who vigorously moderated the plenary sessions and Dr Beatrice Njenga, the Head of the Education Division at the AUC helped us to reinforce CAFOR’s full support to the implementation of the outcome of this Forum.
As we have realised over and over again, Africa is the most youthful continent on planet earth with a significant untapped youth potential. Despite the relatively rapid economic growth, inadequate job creation for a ‘youth bulge’ of Africans with few skills relevant to the labour market, and an underperforming educational system has failed to prepare young people for existing jobs. There is also a significant gender discrepancy emerging as young women tend to enter marriage early and withdraw from the labour force and focus on rearing a family. Africa’s widespread youth unemployment threatens to undermine social and political stability and means that young people are particularly vulnerable to radicalisation
Africa, therefore, needs to turn its youthful population into a demographic dividend now, which is the exponential economic gains we can achieve by investing heavily in the continent’s human capital, and specifically the youth. The African Union believes that the continent will break intergenerational poverty, and address inequalities which have dogged the continent for decades. We must, therefore, ensure a stable Africa, free of conflict, home to citizens who are educated, gainfully employed, healthy and fully engaged in society.
The African Union Commission believes that armed with a vision for the continent’s future as outlined by Agenda 2063, the time has come for bold and accelerated action towards achieving the continent’s goals. It is, therefore, a great responsibility for the continent to adequately invest in the development of its greatest asset – the youth, and provide opportunities for them to become productive members of their societies.
We at CAFOR salute all the speakers at the Forum, and to mention a few, we recognise the remarks of the AUC Chairperson’s special envoy on youth, Ms Aya Chebbi, and the UN Youth envoy, Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayakethe statements from the Head of Human Resources and Youth Development Division, Ms Prudence Ngwenya. Also the goodwill message from the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, from Dr Beatrice Njenga, Head of the Education Division, and Dr Olubunmi Owoso, former Secretary-General, Commonwealth Association of Polytechnics in Africa and currently CAFOR Executive Board member, and Dr Eddie Addai from UNICEF.
As the AUC Chairperson himself has noted, this initiative will respond to new approaches to solving existing problems targeted towards the realities facing African youths. Therefore those of us who are stakeholders must be emboldened to consider new perspectives. We must also work along the lines of the African Union Commission to test new ideas and scale up promising ones within the continent. We must be able to build systemic efficiencies across Africa. Through coordinated and focused implementation, our all-encompassing goal should concentrate on a direct and accumulated impact on the lives of young people that will echo across our continent and lift Africa to new heights of progress.
We at CAFOR seize this opportunity to salute the AUC leadership for taking this initiative and ensuring that it was a complete success. At the end of the deliberations and after receiving pledges of financial, technical and moral support from about 20 partners and institutions in Africa and abroad, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat on Saturday 27 April, 2019 formally launched the “1 million by 2021 Initiative” as a demonstration of the African Union’s commitment to young Africans. This initiative seeks to concretely provide opportunities in the key areas of Employment, Entrepreneurship, Education and Engagement (4E’s) for millions of African Youth by the year 2021. The initiative calls for the pooling together of efforts and resources to enable an enormously effective shift. As Chairperson Mahamat says “I hope that all stakeholders: governments, civil society and youth, and partners, both public and private sector, will join me on this bold new initiative as we demonstrate our sustained commitment to a developed, united and peaceful Africa”.