African youth are major drivers in bid to attain African Union vision – experts

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A three day meeting of experts of the African Union is underway in the resort town of Victoria Falls, in preparation for the Third Ordinary Session of the African Union Ministers in Charge of Youth (COMY III), to be held from 15- 16 April. The African Union Youth Charter identifies a youth as a ?person between the ages of 15 and 35?.

The experts meeting is an opportunity for the Member States delegates to consider, among other programs, the African Union Plan of Action (POA) to support the Decade for Youth development in Africa and the African Union proposal to establish and implement the African Union Youth Volunteers Corps. 2009 ? 2018 was declared as the Decade for Youth Development in Africa by the 12th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in February 2009. The decade is an opportunity to sustain political commitment to youth development and empowerment.

Proposals made by the experts will be put forward for consideration and/ or adoption by the ministerial meeting. If the POA is adopted by the Ministers at the end of their meeting on Friday 16th April, the 53 Member States of the AU would then be expected to incorporate it into their own national plans and strategies. This will ensure that youth development across the continent is in line with the strategic objectives of the African Union, as defined by the Assembly of Heads of State and government, the highest decision making body on the continent.

In addition to discussing the documents being tabled by the AU, the ongoing experts meeting is also providing an opportunity for Member States to learn from each other and share experiences. It is serving as a forum to provide targets on youth development which will assist Member States to use research as the basis for youth development programming and planning, thereby ensuring that the same standards, targets and measurement of progress, more or less, are observed across the continent.

The Plan of Action being considered by the experts recognizes the critical role that can be played by the youth in achieving the AU vision of ?an Africa integrated, prosperous and peaceful, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena?. Vital statistics and information presented in the POA will enable the experts to make considered decisions, before they present their recommendations to the ministers.

Speakers at the opening session of the experts meeting today described the youth as the ?engine for Africa’s development?. This is borne out in the POA which clearly states that ?in 2025, the young people of today will be the main drivers of African economies?. This is so for a number of reasons: numerically the youth form a large part of Africa’s population i.e. 34.3% of the population of Sub Saharan Africa in 2007; the young people of today are the best educated in human history; and gender gaps are steadily closing. The social advantages provided by the youth include greater degree of mobility, versatility, dynamism and adaptability. Youth are also known to be more creative and innovative than adult populations, and take the lead in several areas of development, such as in community development, IT, HIV/AIDS, life skills, education and campaigns.

However, as the experts consider the action plan, they will also have to take into account the challenges that the youth face, and adopt an implementation plan designed to ensure coordinated youth development across Africa by 2018, when the Decade for Youth Development will officially come to an end.

One of these challenges is poverty. 72% of the youth population in Sub Saharan Africa lives on less that $2 a day, caused basically by poor education and lack of skills. Other challenges include exploitation of the youth as they migrate in search of better livelihoods; unemployment; HIV/AIDS; unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions; maternal mortality; different forms of abuse, exploitation by different regimes as perpetrators of violence or conflict; and exclusion from governance structures.

After considering the various opportunities offered by the youth population bulge and the challenges that constrain young people from effectively contributing to the AU vision as well as the proposals for action put forward by the AU, the experts will consider the proposed implementation matrix for the POA, whose timeline runs from 2010 until 2018.

During the experts meeting, the African Union is also putting forward, for consideration, its African Union Youth Volunteerism continental strategy (AUYVC). Youth volunteerism is defined as the services of skilled workers between the ages of 18- 35, supported to provide volunteer opportunities to build their capacity through public sector projects, organisations and/ or in a special service community activity.

The AU also took the opportunity to urge Member States attending the experts meeting to ensure that they ratify the African Youth Charter and that, beyond ratification, and more importantly, that they implement the provisions of the Charter. To date, 19 Members have ratified, 11 are still at the signing stage and 16 have not yet signed. AU Director for Human resources, Science and Technology Mrs. Vera Brenda Ngosi, said ?Ratification is one thing and its good but ratification without implementation of the ideals of the charter is like having a good strategy on paper but without action. It is like a nice dream that is never realized?.

Further discussions by the three day experts meeting will focus on preparations for the Mexico 2010 World Youth Conference and the necessity for Africa to prepare a common position on priorities for youth development for the African region.

Other speakers to address the opening session of the experts meeting today were Mr Itai Muguza, Director in the Ministry of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment in Zimbabwe and Mr. Magoot, the expert of the Ministry in harge of Youth in Libya who is also the outgoing Chair of COMY II.

Source: African Union Commission (AUC)

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