Our voices should be heard at the African Union Summit

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The famous African proverb from Dr. James Emmanuel Kwegyir-Aggrey states, “If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a nation”. So it’s a tremendous loss that 130 million girls around the world are being denied an education — and 51 million of them are right here in Africa.  Without an education, children cannot reach their full potential. This has to change.

As Africa takes charge of its development, prioritising investment in youth is key

For Africa to achieve sustainable development and inclusive economic growth, and build an integrated, prosperous and peaceful society driven by its citizens, more focus needs to be put on prioritizing investments in youth, including addressing the specific needs and constraints of women and girls in education, empowerment and employment. This is our message to African leaders who are preparing to meet in Ethiopia this July for the African Union Summit.

The July Summit will be the second ordinary summit of the African Union under the theme “Harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in the youth”. It will be a big event which will convene at the highest level decision-makers, development partners, civil society and the media to strengthen commitments among African Heads of States to achieve the demographic dividend in Africa.

AU leaders must invest in education, employment and empowerment

It will be a huge opportunity for our leaders to agree to invest in education, employment and empowerment, and transform the future of the entire continent.

Education: African leaders must understand that a well-trained, skilled and technology-savvy workforce is the most vital path to economic and structural transformation in Africa. Public and private sector investments are needed to get more girls into school, improve learning outcomes and generate fit-for-purpose skills. 130 million girls around the world are being denied an education — and 51 million of them are right here in Africa. Without an education, no child or youth can reach their full potential. This has to change by investing in a girl’s education. That’s why we support calls for governments to allocate 20% or more of government expenditure to education. Efforts of partners like GPE through its replenishment campaign can help make this happen.

Employment: African leaders must also focus on how to create employment for the massive number of unemployed youth on the continent. African leaders must develop and effectively implement policies that promote flexible labor markets, facilitate the development of labor-intensive sectors that can compete globally, and liberalize trade – all of which will lead to job growth.

Empowerment: Finally, the importance of empowering youth on the continent cannot be overemphasized. Good health and well-being as well as youth participation in nation building are central to reducing youth vulnerability and maximizing human capital investments. Improving the productivity of the youth workforce and giving voice and space to their aspirations to contribute to African prosperity will create a better future that rests ultimately on their shoulders.

Decisions made at the AU summit will have real consequences. If leaders agree to increase investment in education, employment and empowerment, they could make sure every girl gets the chance to go to school, learn, and gain the knowledge and skills needed to lift herself, her family, and her community out of poverty. But if they do nothing, even more girls will be left behind and sustainable development, as articulated in Agenda 2063 and Agenda 2030 will remain out of reach.

Help us get the message to African leaders. Add your name to send a postcard, and we’ll deliver them to leaders and their teams in the run up to the Summit.

All #girlscount. Join us by sending a postcard to the AU leaders.

Learn more on GPE’s work on girls’ education and gender equality

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