Over 400 young people from across Africa gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in April for a Pan-African Youth Forum. It was an unmissable opportunity to share ideas, debate issues, and crucially influence how the African Union (AU) invests in Africa’s youth.
A brave new world
Africa is the most youthful continent in the world. By 2050, half of its population will be under the age of 25. The number of people working will far outweigh dependents (elderly or children). This is a huge opportunity for African countries to break the cycle of inequality and poverty.
However, this potential will only be realised if Africa’s young population is educated, employed and empowered. That’s why ONE partnered with the African Union’s (AU) Youth Division to organise ‘The 2nd Pan-African Youth Forum’ as a platform for young people to share their visions and solutions.
Nigerian teacher and ONE Champion Chidinma Ibemere said: “I dream of a future where women will have the same rights as men. I also dream of a future where African youth love to stay in Africa… That’s why I participated and contributed to the Forum.”
How relevant the AU is to African youth today was a hot topic. It’s clear that the AU needs to have a much bigger presence in their everyday lives. One young Kenyan compared the AU to his love of music, “the day we can feel and hear the AU, is the day it will become relevant”.
So, it was a great time for the AU to unveil the ‘1 million by 2021 Initiative’ (#1Mby2021) under the theme “Africa Unite for Youth: Bridging the gap and Reaching African Youth”. Focused on the 4E’s – Education, Employment, Entrepreneurship and Engagement – it aims to provide opportunities for at least 1 million young Africans by 2021.
In one of the sessions, Aya Chebbi, the AU Youth Envoy, brought everyone together to talk about setting up a digital platform for young people to discuss ideas.The conversations were held in an open space, without tables and chairs, imitating community meetings held under the shade of a tree in villages across Africa.
Participants came up with ways ‘1 million by 2021’ could make a real difference in their lives, including:
Education – a virtual hub to search and take digital training courses. A mobile teacher training scheme, particularly for teachers in rural areas.
Employment – an online Youth Skills Centre to find internships and work experience opportunities and a virtual Job Centre to search for jobs.
Entrepreneurship – a Pan-African Agency to support young entrepreneurs to expand across the continent.
Engagement – a Youth Coalition. Young people talking to young people about the issues that affect them on radio, TV and via SMS.
Keeping it real
‘1 million by 2021’ got off to a great start! Now everyone is watching closely to see if it becomes a reality.
Adewuyi Roseline Adebimpe, a gender equality and education activist from Ibadan, Nigeria, told ONE: “This initiative stands out from other AU actions through its practical nature and the visible footprints it will leave among African youth. I hope our recommendations will be translated into actions beyond talking.”