LET US PAY ATTENTION TO OUR YOUTH
The United Nations has an objective — Agenda 2030, “Leaving No One Behind”;
“Our own objective is to make Africa overcome its difficulties, to make Africa a continent of hope, to make Africa a continent of the future, to make Africa a pillar of the world in which we live — not seen as a problem but seen as an opportunity.” ~ Antonio Guterres
The African Union has aspirations — Agenda 2063, “The Africa We Want”. There are seven aspirations identified, however, I will only highlight the aspiration that agrees with the rationale of this piece — the sixth aspiration;
“An Africa whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of
African people, especially its women and youth, and caring for children.”
Indeed, there is no other potential for us to rely on but the potential of our women and youth; to paraphrase Mary McLeod Bethune, we have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices to conform with their innovations, so that we may direct their power toward good ends. The most powerful idea for us to leverage and acquire the best from our youth, which includes me, is to imbued anew the spirit of Pan-Africanism in the belief system of our youth where it formerly had its strength.
Modernization never shrank the pride of the Asian in his/her heritage; it should not dim ours — in our heritage lies our light.
“African people, both on the continent and in the diaspora, share not merely a common history, but a common destiny”.
The strength of Pan-Africanism whether Political or Economic should reside in the language of the African youth. Now more than ever, the AU Youth Envoy Aya Chebbi has a herculean task to mobilize and garner the continent’s most precious assets through the creation of creativity and innovation labs across the continent to empower, shape and deploy feasible ideas and initiatives that connote the goals of Agenda 2030 and the aspirations of Agenda 2063 amid the AU Youth Volunteer Corps initiative.
In light of this, I believe International Organisations and the Bretton-Woods Institutions will equally create a consolidated funding system to support and scale-up youth-led innovations, ideas and creativity labs for Africa’s socio-economic development. That notwithstanding, these institutions can also provide mentorship and give direction for youths to be more professional, tolerating diversity, working with integrity and sound judgement for the good of the continent.
“Young people need models, not critics”.
Now, what is needed is Leadership; thus, an entity that will show the way and lead the way; and there is no better institution than the African Union in partnership with the United Nations. I believe we can take a cue from the partnership between the Government of Rwanda and UNDP that saw the establishment of YouthConnekt Africa. YouthConnekt Africa seeks to empower and encourage youth-friendly policies, such as access to finance and skills development, that match the needs of the market in particular countries. Following the leadership of UNDP and the Government of Rwanda, my country office — UNDP Ghana in partnership with the National Youth Authority (NYA) launched hers, making it 7 countries that have launched YouthConnekt in the continent.
The big picture I believe should be a larger partnership between the UN and AU to devise a strategic mechanism to address the security issue which is embodied as youth unemployment in Africa. My proposal, therefore, is a massive investment in youth-labs to scale-up the ideas and initiatives of our youth as we aim to realize our aspirations as a Continent. The rest of the world is ahead of us not because there’s gold or silver in the land, but because of the gold and silver in the mind of the people and arguably the right leadership to drive home innovation and development. There comes a time in the life of a Nation and more accurately, a Continent; that demands that they adopt a strategy for the development of their human resource.
“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Currently, Africa’s population as a whole is very young, with 60% of the entire continent aged below 25, making it the youngest continent in the world. In relation to its population makeup, we have no excuse not to create more sustainable initiatives that would create resilience to mitigate a surge in unemployment within the next 10 years. Now is the time, for us to build-up the human qualities needed to stand strong as a Continent of opportunities and an immovable pillar of growth in the world.
My concluding statement is a poem by Shel Silverstein.
Let us pay attention to our youth.
The Little Boy and the Old Man
Said the little boy, “Sometimes I drop my spoon.”
Said the old man, “I do that too.”
The little boy whispered, “I wet my pants.”
I do that too,”laughed” the old man.
Said the little boy, “I often cry.”
The old man nodded, “So do I.”
But worst of all, said the boy, “it seems grown-ups don’t pay attention to me.”
And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand.
“I know what you mean”, said the old man.