Over 400 young people from across Africa gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in April for the 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.
We spoke to activist Josias Ambeu, living in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has a keen interest in development studies and economics and believes African youth have great ideas, leaders just need to give them the opportunity to contribute.
How did you become an activist?
Observing my peers inspired me to become an activist. Some of these youths, who were much younger than me, were already very skilled in public speaking, project development, implementation and other areas. While we were at the same university, studying the same degree, they had skills that I did not have. I knew I had to get into activism and start volunteering my time on causes that I am passionate about to grow my skillsets.
What does your family think of your activism?
In the beginning, my father wasn’t happy to see me belonging to youth organisations. He felt that I was spending my time with no concrete outcomes. However, his opinion changed when I applied for a position at UN-Habitat and out of the 6000 candidates, I was the only one selected! He then realised that all the volunteering I was doing have produced results. Now, my family is happy and welcomes my activism.
Why did you want to go to AU Youth Forum?
As a youth activist passionate about youth development in Africa, it was important for me to attend and also share my ideas. I also contributed as an interpreter which I wasn’t expecting to do. So, my presence at the Forum also helped a lot of people understand through my translations from French into English.
The AU aims to provide opportunities for at least 1 million young Africans by 2021. What do you think?
In Africa, we always have good ideas. But I think it is the implementation of those ideas that matter most. Reaching 1 million young Africans by 2021 is a great idea, but if there are no concrete step-by-step action plans to reach the goals set out by the initiative, it will only be a framework on paper and nothing else. I think it needs to be broken down to a local level where young people can get actively involved and present their ideas on agriculture, health, education and entrepreneurship, and leaders then invest in and implement those ideas that are tangible.
Do you have a message for Aya Chebbi, the AU Youth Envoy?
We want to engage Ms. Aya Chebbi on an initiative we are running under the African Leadership Institute called Project Pakati, a platform to shift young African leaders to the centre of the African development narrative. This platform can be used by governments as a resource to find skilled young people who can support government in its mandate. For example, when the Minister of Agriculture needs a specialist in agriculture, they can contact those young people who are doing great things in agriculture and get their ideas on what could improve the sector in their country. We want to engage with the AU Youth Envoy, collaborate and ask her to put our minds together to materialise real impact for youth over the next two years.
What are your hopes for the future?
We need collaboration with governments. Today, a lot of leadership initiatives are training young people, but at the end of the day we are not seeing change or real impact. Young people can contribute, they are just not getting those opportunities to do so, yet.