In a virtual discussion organised by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) under the theme “Africa’s Youth in The Decade of Action: Actors or Bystanders”, youth from across the continent agreed that they have a role to play in ensuring that Africa achieves the SDGs
In her keynote address, climate and environmental activist, Elizabeth Wanjiru Wathuti, commented, “As a climate activist, I have not been sitting back and feeling helpless. I started growing trees at the tender age of seven.”
"Youth engagement doesn't mean inviting young people onto panels. Serious engagement means internalizing the fact that young people and future generations have the biggest stake in decisions made today.”
Vera Songwe, United Nations under-secretary-general and ECA executive secretary, said despite the negative effects, COVID-19 has presented huge opportunities in the areas of innovation and tourism, showing that Africa has the potential to grow and create jobs for its youth.
She urged young people to use such opportunities to “create their own jobs and become the employers and entrepreneurs for a prosperous Africa by 2030.”
Songwe cited an ECA youth programme called African Girls Can Code - which links girls across Africa, enabling them to learn the internet of things, artificial intelligence, and gaming - as an initiative that also creates jobs for young girls in Africa.
Songwe said with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Africa can begin to manufacture on the continent and do value addition across the different sectors of our economy.
“They stand to gain the most from high-quality education, decent work, gender equality and a healthy planet – or to lose the most if the world fails to reach those goals. Their energy, ideals and initiatives are crucial for achieving the Goals,” Songwe added.
Emma Theofelus, Namibia’s deputy minister of information, communications and technology, said, “We need young people in decision-making positions. They should be at the tables where Africa's future is being discussed.”
Adji Bousso Dieng, founder of The Africa I Know, noted, “We don’t have the skills and infrastructure in place that can transform raw material into final products for export. This denies the youth the employment opportunity on the continent.”
The issue of unemployment, poverty and lack of education was raised by Achalake Christian Leke, executive director of LOYOC Cameroon, who noted “This is a big problem for Africa and needs to be tackled immediately. This needs to be addressed if we want to see any progress on the continent.”
The event served as a platform for young people to engage with leaders to renew their commitment to the 2030 agenda and to advocate for urgency, ambition, and action to realise the Sustainable Development Goals; provide African youth a virtual hub to mobilise, reflect on their needs and aspirations, and establish coalitions for positive change through the achievement of the Goals.
It was also an opportunity for young leaders to share best practices, experiences, and challenges in their work towards the Goals, and brainstorm concrete ideas and actions that young women and men can take in their respective communities, countries, and regions to ensure that Africa achieves the Goals by 2030.