The ongoing 2018 Youth Connekt Africa Summit is a powerful platform developed for the youth from across different sectors across the continent; they include entrepreneurs, youth political leaders, innovators, artists, students, to name a few.
It targets youth from across Africa and the diaspora; and does not leave behind youth living with disabilities. The main objective of Youth Connekt Africa is to provide an opportunity for young people from diverse backgrounds and continents to literally “connect”.
The forum emphasises the need to empower the youth by, first, defining and developing the right socio-economic and political environments that will help them to succeed.
This includes: access to education as well as access to funding for innovative entrepreneurial ideas. It emphasizes on investing in youth globally.
Lastly, it brings together those entrusted with policy making to create the space for inclusion and empowerment of youth in the development agenda.
This is the second time this is happening at the continental level; the inaugural one was held last year in July 2017, which resulted in three recommendations.
This year’s edition stands out for three significant reasons; firstly, scaling up of the YouthConnekt initiative to the continental level, beyond the six countries participating then, secondly, the establishment of a YouthConnekt Africa Hub to be based in Kigali, Rwanda and offering regional support to national youth programmes.
Thirdly is the establishment of a YouthConnekt Empowerment Fund, which will seek to finance youth empowerment initiatives across the continent.
Why is it important to focus on the youth?
Africa is a youthful continent. Over 65% of our population is below the age of 35. This article looks at this as both an opportunity and a challenge for Africa that we all ought to be familiar with.
Beginning in 2035, it is expected that the number of young people reaching working age in Africa will exceed that of the rest of the world combined, and will continue every year for the rest of the century.
This impending demographic dividend is expected to add to Africa’s economic importance, something that at least everyone considers positive and an important surrogate to sustainable development.
By 2030, it is projected that 43% of all Africans will join the ranks of the global middle and upper classes.
By that same year, household consumption in Africa is expected to reach $2.5 trillion, more than double the $1.1 trillion of 2015, and combined consumer and business spending will total $6.7 trillion.
These statistics are the reason why everyone has started looking at Africa a bit differently, there is an increasing interest in Africa, the potential of Africa is beginning to be more visible and everyone wants to be part of this story.
Since the year 2000, at least half of the countries in the world with the highest annual growth rate have been in Africa.
Sadly, it has also emerged that a considerable percentage of Africa youth do not seem to be working hard enough to own this amazing dialogue and are instead looking for every available opportunity to go out there, some dying in the process.
They are still trapped in the misconception that Africa lags behind in quality educational and health facilities, limited employment and low wages.
Some have argued that there is not enough opportunity for youth inclusion in leadership. I would be wrong to indicate these as incorrect.
In fact, the unfortunate story of Africa’s worrisome youth unemployment is often told alongside the success story of the continent’s fast and steady economic growth.
What I would like the youth to believe in is that alongside the challenges lie much more innovative solutions and opportunities for them.
The challenges and opportunities are around us all, but I want to believe that the youth have the best opportunity ever to pave way for the prosperity of Africa, the Africa of tomorrow in which they will be the leaders.
None of Africa’s problems is beyond the means and resources that the continent has. No one can define for us what the success of Africa will be like except us; we have to define success in our own terms and work hard to achieve it by our own rules.
The youth have the best opportunity to influence policy formulation and implementation by building synergies that converge them to share their learning, experiences, ideas and innovations.
They have the best opportunity to formulate youth-centered programmes that help them and us to work together to achieve common goals, such as providing practical and sustainable solutions to existing urban challenges.
How can the youth do that?
The youth can begin by acknowledging the powerful position they hold in the Africa’s urban future narrative. They need to own more firmly the story and want to defend it more and yearn to tell it themselves.
Progressive influence could be achieved through more frequent platforms such as the ongoing Youth Connekt Africa Summit and many others, which could be either physical or virtual.
The youth need to search all avenues to be more visible in leadership and development. I am aware of several youth mentorship programmes that are keen on guiding youth to be better and equip them to face tomorrow, especially the institutions of higher learning.
Above all, consistent commitment to nation building will come hand in hand to strengthen youth development, national development and continental development.
Ms. Malonza, an architect and urban designer with keen interest on the dialectical relations between Architecture and Society, is a lecturer at the school of Architecture, University of Rwanda .
The views expressed in this article are of the author.