Friday, January 7 2022

Africa must nurture and celebrate its youth and the power it has to change the discourse of the continent, said Tanzanian Ambassador Ombeni Sefue, chair of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), at the opening. Africa Day 2021 virtual public symposium.

The May 24 youth-focused symposium was organized by the APRM and the African Union (AU) in collaboration with the University of Cape Town (UCT) and the Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance (NMSPG). The next day marked the 58th annual commemoration of Africa Day, which celebrates the founding of the Organization of African Unity (now the AU), in 1963.

“A lot has happened since then [the founding of the AU], much remains to be done, much remains to be done. That is why we must focus on the young. It is the youth of Africa on whose shoulders will rest the task of fulfilling this dream, ”said Ambassador Sefue.

“It is the youth of Africa on whose shoulders will rest the task of making this dream come true.”

It is young Africans who can change the continent’s discourse on health crises, unemployment, misaligned educational programs and forced migration due to conflict.

The theme of the symposium, “Development and participation of young people on the African continent in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic”, had three axes:

  • Youth participation in peace and security in Africa amid COVID-19
  • Participation and contributions of young people in the construction of a strong African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA)
  • The decolonization of African school curricula.

The backdrop was the broader AU theme, “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers to Build the Africa We Want”, and the 15th anniversary of the African Youth Charter.

Huge youth population

The United Nations (UN) notes that the global population of young people (classified as those aged 15 to 35) is 1.8 billion, 90% of which are in the developing world. Africa has the largest proportion of young people in the developing world.

“We want to exploit this [youth] dividend.”

In addition to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, high unemployment, war and conflict, the continent’s youth generation should fulfill the mission of ushering in “the Africa we want” characterized by Aspiration 6 of the AU Agenda 2063. This is the AU’s blueprint for transforming the continent into a global power through inclusive and sustainable development. It envisions people-centered development of the continent, harnessing the potential of Africans, especially women and youth.

Mabel Nederlof-Sithole from the Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance was co-moderator. Photo Lerato Maduna.

“We want to exploit this [youth] dividend, ”said UCT NMSPG co-moderator Mabel Nederlof-Sithole.

However, it was important for Africa’s youth to develop an understanding of their history, identity and destiny to foster the pride and pan-African ideas needed to prepare the continent for the future, Sefue said.

But COVID-19 has been a major setback for young people.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken our lives and forced us to think innovatively about how to transform our economies and promote peace and sustainable development, as well as find lasting solutions to the challenges of poverty and governance, ”Sefue said. “In these times, building resilience has become a priority, and the role and contribution of women and young people is indispensable. “

Free trade Area

He urged young people to take advantage of the opportunities created by the rise of technology and the African free trade area.

“As a dynamic, highly adaptable and resilient group, young people should be included in all political decisions… in different sectors, be they political, economic, corporate or social. At the APRM, we believe that the active participation and engagement of young people at different levels is a critical factor for good governance, economic growth and sustainable development. To see Africa’s youth reach their full potential, it is essential that Member States fully implement all relevant key instruments.

These are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the AU Agenda 2063 , the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the African Youth Charter.

“In addition, we must prioritize meaningful cross-sector partnerships to advance the youth agenda in Africa and promote greater accountability among stakeholders. “

Sefue said the APRM welcomes initiatives taken by the continent’s youth. For example, last year they produced a youth policy document which was released by the AU Youth Division in collaboration with the African Centers for Disease Control.

“We also welcomed the initiative in May last year to establish an AU Youth Advisory Council and the African Youth Fund on Coronavirus, a high-level policy and advocacy framework for young people. to co-lead Africa’s response to COVID-19. “

The past is not a prison

In his statement of support, Michael Chukwuemeka of Youth Vanguard of the APRM Nigeria shared a powerful message of hope and action. As Nederlof-Sithole said, “[Chukwuemeka’s] The powerful testimony of victory over drug addiction reminds us all that our past does not have to be our prison. If we can hope, be resilient, and build support networks that convey the love and generosity we receive, change is always possible.

Chukwuemeka said that the APRM African Youth Vanguard has offered the continent’s youth the opportunity “to amplify our voices and act together at the national and international levels to be global citizens in strengthening Africa ”.

“As young people, I urge us to heed the bugle call for our nation to take full responsibility for achieving [our] objectives and aspirations by promoting the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063 among young people.

Although conflict and unemployment are obstacles, he urged young people to take care.

“We can’t just sit there complaining… we have to do something and act now. Africa is our home … whatever [where] our second residency citizenship in the diaspora.

Nothing about us without us

In her welcome speech, UCT Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng cited the militant slogan born during the South African student protests between 2015 and 2017: “Nothing for us without us”. Professor Phakeng said there are good reasons for African youth to take this sentence to heart.

“First and foremost, we want young people to participate in the development of Africa. They must be able to assume their role on this continent. Second, young people don’t even wait for us to invite them… they don’t wait for us to tell them to act on the future. Many of them are already active, but their future is also our future, and that of our children and grandchildren. We all have a responsibility to engage with each other and to work together.

“So the slogan… can apply to all Africans, including those of us who have experience in leadership roles, and especially future generations who will be affected by our decisions and actions today. ‘hui. “

A general collapse in trust in public leadership has also been a crisis, Phakeng said. Young people “no longer believe in presidents, CEOs, even university leaders … So we, as leaders, have the challenge of proving our credibility, not only in what we say, but also in what we do.”

    Mamokgethi Phakeng
Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng said African youth should take to heart the student protest slogan, “Nothing about us without us”. Photo Lerato Maduna.

She said UCT’s Vision 2030, with the aim of unleashing human potential, recognizes the seismic changes introduced by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“And Africans need to take the initiative to manage how we are going to change, rather than waiting for the change to happen and chasing it. When change happened in Africa, it was usually brought about by a colonial power… But that doesn’t mean we can’t initiate our own changes as Africans.

However, it was important to understand the long term effects of the changes that young people want to see. One example of the types of commitments needed is the call by students at UCT to write off all historic student debt – a staggering number.

“The issue of tuition fees is very moving in South Africa,” Phakeng said. “And helping the poor is why we have such a big financial aid plan, beyond what the government can offer.”

During her discussions with the students, Phakeng said she asked if they wanted to be the last generation to study at UCT.

“Activism must benefit not only this generation, but it must benefit future generations.”

“Because if we use all the financial resources we have to erase historic debt, that will be the result. If we do away with historic debt, we will have to lay off staff, including our low-wage classes, and it won’t help the poor… It won’t help the future if we end up shutting down the top-ranked university in the world. Africa; stop research that helps us solve health, social and climate change problems… So we need to be careful about this and at least manage the student debt that is currently in the system.

Phakeng added, “Activism must benefit not only this generation, but it must benefit future generations. And this is the message we need for all of us who call ourselves activists.

* Other reports from the symposium will follow during Youth Month.




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