Jambo Africa Online’s Associate Editor, OFENTSE NTHITE, unpacks the African Union’s policy documents on youth empowerment

According to the information captured by the African Union (AU), Africa has the youngest population in the world with more than 400 million young people aged between the ages of 15 to 35. The continent houses a youthful population which is the foundation or the green card, rather, for an increase of socio-economic investment that will prioritize its young population. 

To empower the youth is to encourage young people to aspire to be better. We have to provide them with access to credible information. To steer them into the right direction and avail resources they need. To enable them to take full control of their lives and make wise decisions in fulfilling their dreams: of gaining appropriate skills; exhausting their potential; and, availing maximum opportunities and resources that are not too far of reach nor too vague to comprehend.

In Africa, the problems facing the youth require urgent solutions. Government policies of all nation states need to translate into initiatives that equip the youth with the necessary skills and experience to stimulate economic growth through intrapreneurial skills that will empower them to employ their peers and ignite in them hope for the future. The PAN African Council channeled in 2012 does its bit by offering a combination of learning and mentorship programs to enable the youth to be able to reach their dreams. The role of the mentorship aspect equally plays a pivotal role in grooming thought leaders and boosting their self-esteem, especially for those who are coming from extremely marginalised backgrounds to see beyond their dire realities. 

The youth of Africa need to be prioritized. Their participation needs to be valued. They need to be involved in decision making processes, to get inducted into leadership programs that will equip them with the skill to tackle domestic and international challenges. Not to mention inclusion, which leads to a tremendous reduction in unemployment which often leads to the adoption of antisocial behaviour of crime and drug addiction. 

And through the various Agenda 2063 initiatives, the AU has dedicated their efforts to the implementation of youth development policies and programmes. These policies include The African Youth Charter, Youth Decade Plan of Action and the Malibu Decision on Youth Empowerment. 

The African Youth Charter Ordinary Session of the Assembly which was held on 2 July 2006, for instance, reassures under Article 11 of youth participation that all young people shall be able to participate in all aspects of societal growth. Article 15 of ‘Sustainable livelihoods and youth employment’ promises that “every young people shall have the right to employment”. The mentioned articles penned in black and white in the ‘African Youth Charter’ document is accommodated by other articles that capture how other challenges affecting the youth today will be solved. 

It is worth mentioning that on her plight to empower its youth, the African continent has welcomed other major youth empowerment programs. One of them being the Young African Leaders Initiative, created by The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2010. YALI focuses on developing core values that will enable the next generation leaders to architect a society that is conducive for Africa’s young population. The initiative, that attracts young leaders from the ages of 25 to 35-years, puts emphasis on equipping or rather enhancing their existing leadership skills that are needed for Africa’s renewal. Skills that are needed for youth that will think beyond region for the sake of the next generation youth leaders.

The youth are the backbone of any society and they need not become prone to being marginalized at the periphery of decision-making processes but empowered enough to influence policies.