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Charles Mankhwazi is a researcher on the Youth Think Tank. He attended the African Union 2nd Pan-African Youth Forum earlier this year.

The 24th – 27th of April 2019 was a historic period that saw youth power come to action. Over 500 African Youth convened at the 2nd AU Pan-African Youth forum, hosted at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

As the final day of the youth forum concluded, a more remarkable period for African Youth dawned, following the commitments made by heads of international organizations and youth-led agencies including UNFPA, UNICEF, African Development Bank, Open Society, Trace International, AfriLabs, the German Embassy, Facebook, and RED Africa, who all pledged over $560 million to support Education, Employment, Entrepreneurship and Engagement(4Es) to reach 1 million young people by the year 2021, an Initiative launched by the Chairperson of the AU, Commissioner Moussa Faki Mahamat.

The forum, which was themed: Africa Unite: Bridging the Gap and reaching African Youth engaged with young African leaders in developing roadmaps and action plans towards the achievement of the 4Es. Africa’s most powerful untapped asset, the young people, were called upon to lead from the front and demand the change they want.

You have talked, and we have listened carefully, we will support you to make sure that the African Dream is realized“ the Commissioner of Human Resources, Science and Technology passionately expressed.

On the contrary, African Youth have been marginalized and are frustrated by the lack of support  from their respective Governments, as well as regional and international stakeholders who control most resources.

Mr. Mahamat, the incumbent AU Commissioner said that “hundreds of young Africans have been found migrating to Europe in search of a better life. It is thus our duty to find solutions that will keep the youth here in Africa, where they can play an active role in developing their local communities.”

The recently held “Now Generation Forum” revealed that most youths migrate in search of better jobs, economic opportunities, friendly business environment, peace and security, the quest for new experiences, less climate change and the human nature of migrating. More importantly, the underlying factor remains that although many African economies have recently recorded increasing levels of GDP, its effects have not trickled down to the whole of its youth population. For reasons such as this, it is perceived that Africa has a demographic bomb rather than a demographic dividend.

Charles at the African Union

To challenge this perception, it is vital that African youth are meaningfully engaged in decision making platforms where their insights and opinions can be heard, taken onboard and integrated into national, regional and global action plans. Under the leadership of the AU Youth Envoy, African youths demanded the establishment of an “Afrikan Youth Assembly“, a decision making body within the African Union. The body will aim to increase representation of African Youths at the continental level, and will enhance Pan-African exchange, peer learning, collaboration, and meaningful engagement with the African Union Commission (AUC).

Once established, it is envisaged that the Youth Assembly will convene at least once a year, and will also participate in the African Union’s General Assembly, where heads of member states come together to discuss and tackle pertinent issues affecting the African continent.

In the famous words of Thomas Sinkara, a fervent Pan-Africanist and Iconic Revolutionary:

You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness. In this case, it comes from nonconformity, the courage to turn your back on the old formulas, the courage to invent the future“.

Whilst the AUC, Private Sector, and Civil Society made strong commitments to support African Youths, it remains the duty of young people to shape the new African Dream and have the courage to forge new solutions and invent the future they want.

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