Africa has one of the youngest populations and fastest growing in the world, with 65% of the population under the age of 35 years. The African population is expected to more than double by 2050 increasing from 1.1 billion to 2.4 billion, and African states are experiencing difficulties in leveraging this rapid population growth making it difficult for African economies to create jobs and in turn alleviate poverty. The implication presented by this population growth poses a significant risk to Africa, and requires collaborative efforts in addressing it, particularly for and among the youth.
The rhetoric behind the saying, ‘the future lies in the youth has been widely used across the African continent and globe, yet the voices of the youth remain unheard. As a response to these challenges faced by the African youth, the African Youth and Governance Conferences (AYGCs) commenced in 2009to promote youth development and to bridge the gap between government and civil society.
The 7th annual AYGC was held in Johannesburg at the Pan African Parliament (PAP) on the 11th-13th August 2015. This initiative was hosted in partnership with The Youth Bridge Foundation, Embo Media, Creative Gap Media, and Capacity and Development Services. The AYGC brings together delegates from across the continent to discuss the challenges and ambitions relevant to Africa’s future, presenting itself as a platform for young delegates to critically engage on continental as well as global issues pertaining to African youth development. This years’ conference under the theme “AU Agenda 2063 and Post-2015 SDGs: Investing in Africa’s human capital for peace and development”, particularly identified four critical issues affecting Africa, African business and African youth:
- African youth development advocacy: ensuring increased commitment to and investment in the youth, for a brighter future.
- Connected African Youth: intercultural understanding among the youth (those within the continent and the Diaspora).
- Question and analyze challenges to African unity and development.
- Youth Mobilization and Engagement: Increased youth participation and partnerships in mainstream economic, leadership and governance platforms.
The AYGC is structured as follows: Delegates are divided into different committees, each discussing varying topics but with one aim – advancing African development and promoting youth participation. The various committees discussed issues such as International Relations, peace and security; good governance; environment and energy renewables; education and health. Committees had three days to interrogate and unpack their topics, and find resolutions to their respective subjects. On the last day of the Conference, the committees gathered and collectively debated on their resolutions in a formal sitting; the final resolutions are then presented to the Host Government.
The AYGCs is a path towards Africa’s future, unifying the African youth in defining their future. It presents young Africans with the platform for their voices to be heard, to take lead in their future. This initiative not only promotes Youth development but also unity, through connecting youth from different walks of life and countries within the African continent to discuss critical issues which affect them. Although the rhetoric and in some cases, rights based argument of promoting participation is used by African leaders, this was not matched at the 7th Annual AYGC. In what was meant to be prioritised as a space for African Youth in the Pan African Parliament, it was not made available. The PAP failed to fulfil its promise to open the parliament chambers for the conference; instead, young African delegates were re-directed to smaller committee rooms. This reflects the unwillingness of African leaders to priorities youth developmental issues. This is something to be considered when planning the next AYGC. Nonetheless the conference was a success, and the youth made use of the resources made available.