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Dr. Cletus Akwaya: African Union’s Decade for Continent’s Youths

• Chairperson, African Union Commission, Moussa Faki

The 29th Session of the African (AU) which ended in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on July 5, may have kindled the hope of the African youths who appear to have been neglected in the scheme of the country’s development agenda over the years.

It was heartwarming that the Authority of Heads of States and Government have seen the need to invest in the future of the continent’s youth by adopting resolutions that would mainstream youth development on the continsing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth”, the Summit mandated the Chairperson of the AU “ to mobilize international support for Africa’s efforts towards harnessing the demographic dividend by calling for a special session of the United Nations General Assembly and the creation of a global partnership on the demographic dividend”

As a practical step, the Summit approved the establishment of “African Youth Fund” which would henceforth benefit from at least 1 % of the AU annual Programme Budget for youth related activity across the continent.

Youth groups and activists were quick to point at the low percentage budgetary allocation but experts submitted that it was a significant step forward since it was the first time the AU would adopt specific measures to address the problems confronting the African youths.

Across the continent, African youths appear to be the most neglected. Access to education and employment opportunities have eclipsed as African economies take a turn for the worse. The youths have over the years become tools in the hands of power hungry politicians who recruit them for criminal activities in order to advance their causes. Thus the African youth is only good for political thuggery, militia operations, ethnic wars, violent protests and other crimes at the instance of political actors and leaders.

The most disturbing trend has been the involvement of African youth in terrorism and extremist agitations as witnessed in the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria and the crisis in Mali among others where the youth became fighters for unpatriotic causes.

A section of the African youth with the resolve to participate in economic activities face the daunting challenges of  lack of access to land, investment capital and business opportunities as the older generations dominate the economic space, influencing laws and policies that only further alienation of the youths  in the mainstream of their national economies.

And in all of these, the African youths do nåot even a forum to discuss their plight and share experiences on the continental level. To this extent therefore, the 29th Summit acted wisely by institutionalizing The Pan- African Youth Forum which first met recently in N’Djamena, Chad.

The involvement of international partners and the UN in the effort to reform the African  Youth might increase the capacity of AU to deal with the multi – faceted challenges of Youths empowerment on the continent. One such initiative is forthcoming  5th AU – EU Summit (29-30 Nov. 2017)  which has the theme: “Investment in Youth for Accelerated Inclusive growth and sustainable development”;  review of  various African youth development initiatives being jointly undertaken by the African Union Council( AUC); AFRICAN development Bank(AfDB); International Labour Organization(ILO); and Economic Commission for Africa(ECA).

In order to achieve a sustained implementation of the youth development agenda, the AUC declared the period  2018-2027 as “African Decade for Technical, Professional and Entrepreneurial Training and Youth Employment”. This means that youth empowerment will expectedly take centre stage in the AU’s activities at least for the next ten years.

AUC’s declaration of September each year  till 2020 as “ Africa Amnesty Month” was thus welcome as a concrete step in the decade-long agenda for youths since a significant size of those wielding illegal are and  weapons a re the youths.

By this policy therefore, those who surrender weapons shall not be subjected to” disclosure humiliation, arrest or prosecution”, the very reasons many youths still stick to violent crimes even when they  felt it was time to quit.

Also, the summit resolved that “persons who surrender their illegally owned weapons/arms shall not be subjected to disclosure humiliation, arrest or prosecution;

“persons who fail to surrender their illegally owned weapons/arms beyond the Africa Amnesty month, shall automatically be considered to be in violation of national laws and the Amnesty and shall therefore be prosecuted according to the national laws of the Member States”.

Like many other beautiful policies and decisions of the continental body, the problem has always being implementation of adopted resolutions. If the latest resolutions on African youth development  are faithfully implemented, the next decade would mark the dawn for the African youths.

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