African youth thirsty for change

By – SAnews.gov.za

African youth have called for change, which will see them more involved in the political, economic, social as well as peace and security spheres on the continent.

Samson Itodo, the Executive Director of the Nigeria based Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA), says the youth hold the key to many of the problems faced by the continent, particularly economic growth, insecurity, poverty and lack of access to education and health services.

“The solutions are within Africa and we have the capacity to address those challenges. I am very confident that as young people, we have a huge role to play. The future is ours to build and we must start building that future now,” said Itodo on Wednesday, which was the first day of the sixth AU High-Level Dialogue on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance.

Held in Tshwane, the dialogue brought over 350 youth leaders from across the continent, who joined policymakers, academics and experts to interrogate policies and practices impacting youth participation and representation in governance in Africa.

The annual two-day session is being held under the theme ‘Enhancing Youth Participation and Representation in Governance in Africa’. Experts explore the barriers hindering the meaningful participation of youth in governance in Africa. The meeting provides an ideal platform to better understand the challenges faced by youth.

Itodo highlighted the issue of age restrictions in policies and constitutional instruments that prevent young people from running for elections. He said young people are often treated as “just numbers”.

“They should get active and get into the turf of politics and make an impact – not because they are young but because there is value young people bring to the table,” said Itondo.

Teresa Mbagaya, an entrepreneur from Kenya, told SAnews that Africa should capitalise on the human capital that youth represent.

“Africa is growing and as such, we really need to empower young people so that they are able to be involved not only politically but in social issues such as health and education.”

Mbagaya said youth need to share lessons and experiences on how to increase active participation in society.

Emmy Otim, a strategy entrepreneur and leadership trainer from Uganda, said the continent needs to develop a concrete and realistic plan to enhance youth participation in decision making processes.

“We need to have concretised and real solutions which we can take home and implement across the different sectors. We need to be concrete about youth unemployment and access to education for youth as well as entrepreneurship.”

AU champions youth involvement

The African Union (AU) is already working on fostering meaningful youth participation and representation at all levels of governance.

Through a series of frameworks, the AU is working to meaningfully leverage the potential of young people for Africa’s socio-economic development and structural transformation.

The continental body has adopted the AU Youth Charter, which provides governments, youth, civil society and international organisations with a continental blueprint that underlines the rights, duties, and freedoms of youth in Africa.

Agenda 2063, the blueprint and roadmap for development in Africa for the next 46 years, emphasises the importance of harnessing the potential of youth to achieve an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.

Aspiration six of Agenda 2063 foresees “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”.

The dialogue in Tshwane, which was opened by Public Service and Administration Minister Faith Muthambi and Ghana’s former President John Dramani Mahama, will continue on today.