11 August, 2014

By Lombe Tembo, Zambia

What is the African Youth and Governance Conference (AYGC)?

The 6th AYGC was held in Lusaka, Zambia from 4th to 8th August 2014 under the theme “Investing in Africa’s human capital for peace and development” and was hosted by the Mayor of Lusaka, Mr Mulenga Sata.

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The conference was mainly attended by students and graduates in economics, policy analysis and civil service. It was interesting to have people with diverse backgrounds coming together to discuss critical issues for them and their countries.

To promote youth interactions, networks and partnerships across cultures and borders, the delegates were organised in seven committees:

  • Education and Culture
  • Agriculture and Food Security
  • Governance and Leadership
  • International Relations
  • Peace, Security and Defence
  • Health and the Post 2015 Agenda
  • Environment and Renewable Energy

The conference included interactive sessions, opportunities for team-building, committee level work and debates to analyse, accept or reject the resolutions that were brought forth by the committees. The role of the Committees was to analyse the African Youth Decade Plan of Action for “Accelerating Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development”, and produce a strategic document with recommendations that were then submitted to the African Union.

As well as the topic covered by each committee, the conference offered the opportunity to discuss some cross cutting issues, such as Investment and Sustainable Development and Employment and Entrepreneurship. Unfortunately, other cross cutting issues which I think are very important, were listed but not presented in the plenary session. These were: Gender, Human Rights and Social Development.

What are young people doing?

At the Conference, I had the opportunity to interact with a lot of young people and tell them about my involvement in Restless Development’s Governance Task Team. The Task Team is a group of ten young people who support children, young people and youth-led organisations globally to participate in the post 2015 process, as well as in international and national level discussions, to ensure participation of children and young people in governance and accountability processes. I also had the chance to discuss Restless Development’s Big Idea Programme, which aims at mobilising young people, empowering them with knowledge, data and technology and the skills needed for them to demand change effectively. The Big Idea will be implemented in Ghana and Tanzania, among other countries, across 2014 and 2015 and the young people participating in the big Idea programme will drive accountability on issues that are important to them at a local, national and global level.

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With governance and accessible political processes being one of the most important issues for youth in Africa, a lot of delegates at the conference expressed interest in getting involved in these kinds of projects, to start the change needed in their communities. Delegates included youth from Zambia and many other countries in Africa, which made me realise how much impact on the life of young people in Africa Restless Development’s Governance Task Team and Big Idea Programme might have. Young people the world over are in need of information, as well as access to opportunities that will give them the chance to participate effectively in decision-making processes. The Governance Task Team is a great example of how young people can be active agents of change and I believe that with time, more young people will be on board, forming a wider network that will allow them to push for the change they want to see.

How do we move forward?

Although the conference provided a good space to discuss the issues mentioned above, I think there is some room for improvement. Some delegates for example were unable to attend because of lack of funding. In the future, this could be tackled by getting more partners and sponsors on board from civil society organisations, Government ministries and other stakeholders. In addition, the conference was not publicised enough, which led to a low turnout. Furthermore, some candidates felt that they could have contributed more useful insights if they had been provided with relevant information, such as case studies, in advance of the conference. I personally think that there is need for African Governments to give increased support to young people in order for them to be able to contribute to debates and solve some of the major issues in Africa. One way to do that could be to form stronger partnerships with civil society organisations in order to reach young people in rural as well as urban areas.

A final thank you!

All in all, the African Youth and Governance Conference was a wonderful experience for me to meet with young people from around Africa, share ideas and discuss issues that are critical to our future. As this was the first time that the conference was being held in Southern Africa, I believe that the organisers did a great job in making it a success and I hope that the feedback me and other participants gave will be used in the planning of next year’s conference.

What do you think?

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