Renewed calls for pro-youth policies in EAC

The youth constitute about 60 per cent (70 million people) of the entire population of the East African Community,  making the challenges they face worth of quick attention, experts have said.
Mutabingwa says he wants a pro-people EAC.  The New Times/ File.
Mutabingwa says he wants a pro-people EAC. The New Times/ File.

The youth constitute about 60 per cent (70 million people) of the entire population of the East African Community,  making the challenges they face worth of quick attention, experts have said.

The experts raised their concern during the launch of the Vision East Africa Forum Rwanda Chapter (VEAF-Rwanda Chapter), a think-tank for public engagement in regional integration process.

Speaking at the launch, Dr James Ndahiro, a member of the East African Legislative Assembly said that empowering youth is key to regional integration and development of individual member states.

“Sixty per cent of the EAC population are youth. However, when you look at national budgets, you realise they don’t really address challenges faced by this majority population. For our region to progress, we need to empower them,” said Dr Ndahiro.

He also gave a lengthy lecture on the history of the EAC, saying the initial idea of forming the East African Community was to engage all stakeholders mainly members of the public and that VEAF will serve as a bridge between the decision makers and members of the public.

According to Alloys Mutabingwa, the chairperson of VEAF, the think-tank is aimed at adding value to regional integration which is mainly people-centered.

“We basically want to see that regional integration, in all its processes, is engineered by the will of the people, and in this context, we dream about the EAC where people are enjoying their freedoms, peace and harmony,” said Mutabingwa, who is a former deputy secretary-general of the bloc.

Youth concerns

He particularly pointed out that the think-tank will serve as a forum to deal with problems faced by the people in the region and that their starting point will be dealing with youth concerns.

“We intend to conduct a baseline survey on the youth population growth in the region, both as a challenge and an opportunity and come up with appropriate ways of addressing the challenges and exploiting the opportunities,” Mutabingwa said.

Prof. Mwambutsya Ndebesa, from Makerere University in Uganda, said integration starts with people’s attitudes and to realise a complete integration process, there is need to influence people’s ways of thinking through social integration.

The board chairman of VEAF Tanzania, Prof. Azaveli Feza Lwaitama, said whatever is being done in line with EAC integration process is leading to forming a political federation which will make the bloc negotiate with authority several deals with other regions.

“We need to put ourselves together to negotiate with force…we have all the resources but we also have leaders who have specialized in begging for assistance. With a federation we will realise a future of no begging but demanding,” said Prof. Lwaitama.

He also called for the need to engage the ordinary citizens in the whole integration crusade and also said that decision makers should ensure that ordinary citizens are taken on board during the integration process.

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