Unlocking Africa’s Potential: Youth Engagement for Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance

In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, preparations for the 12th High-Level Dialogue have commenced with a vital pre-forum discussion on engaging youth to drive democracy, human rights, and governance in Africa. This gathering brings together young minds from across the continent to evaluate existing strategies and propose innovative recommendations for harnessing the power of youth in advancing peace and prosperity through the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) implementation.

Youth: Africa’s Greatest Asset

The African Youth Charter highlights the indispensable role of meaningful youth engagement in political, economic, and social development. With over 400 million young individuals, Africa boasts a demographic advantage that can be transformed into practical gains. To achieve this, it is imperative to prioritize investments that empower young people to become drivers of governance, peace, and sustainable development.

In today’s challenging landscape, characterized by democratic governance setbacks, military takeovers, and Unconstitutional Changes of Government (UCGs), the timing of these youth discussions is critical. Amb Salah Hammad, Acting Head of AGA-APSA Secretariat at the African Union Commission, recognizes the importance of the youth’s voices in navigating these challenges. He emphasizes that involving young people is essential to understand their perspectives and collaborate on fostering their meaningful participation in democratic governance and peace.

A Pathway to Inclusivity: AfCFTA Protocol on Women and Youth in Trade

To enhance inclusivity within the AfCFTA, the African Union is developing the AfCFTA Protocol on Women and Youth in Trade. This protocol aims to address the unique obstacles faced by youth and women in intra-African trade. By removing barriers and creating an enabling environment, it will facilitate access to larger markets, boost competitiveness, and integrate young Africans into regional value chains.

The AfCFTA: A Catalyst for Africa’s Progress

Chido Mpemba, African Union Youth Envoy, underscores the significance of the AfCFTA in Africa’s socio-economic development and unity. She believes that alongside peace dividends, the AfCFTA can improve security, stability, governance, human rights, and social cohesion. Young people play a pivotal role in this, engaging in trade, regional integration, conflict resolution, and the building of inclusive societies.

The youth consultations will seek practical solutions to the challenges obstructing peace dividends and trade for young Africans. These challenges include limited access to information, financial resources, technology, infrastructure, and markets. Moreover, the lack of representation in leadership and decision-making bodies and insufficient skills for global market competition pose significant hurdles.

Thematic Areas for Youth Engagement

The consultations will focus on five key thematic areas to drive youth involvement in AfCFTA and peace dividends:

  1. Unpacking the Role of Youth in Democratic Governance and Socioeconomic Development: This discussion will explore the vital role young people play in democratic governance and socioeconomic progress.
  2. Youth at the Center of AfCFTA Implementation: Delving into the normative frameworks of the African Union, Regional Economic Communities, and Member States, this session aims to ensure that the AfCFTA engages youth at every stage.
  3. Creating Access for Youth in AfCFTA: Youth require access to policymaking, leadership, capacity-building, finance, technology, and spaces for political and democratic governance to reap the benefits of AfCFTA.
  4. Africa Talks: An intergenerational dialogue will showcase youth’s contributions to democratic values and socioeconomic development. This session will spotlight best practices and key contributions of young people in these areas.

In conclusion, the meaningful engagement of youth is crucial for Africa’s progress, especially in the context of the AfCFTA. By addressing the challenges and actively involving young people in democratic governance, trade, and peace initiatives, Africa can unlock its immense potential and ensure a brighter future for all.

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