The Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, has charged African leaders to involve young people in decisions that affect them.
He said the continent could not talk about sustainable development without the active involvement of the youth.
Dr Bawumia made the call when he opened the fourth Africa YouthConnekt Summit in Accra yesterday.
The three-day event brought together more than 2,000 delegates physically with 15,000 young people connecting virtually.
It was on the theme: “Africa Beyond Aid: Positioning the Youth for the Post COVID Economy and AfCFTA Opportunities.”
The Vice-President said: “Africa cannot talk about shaping the future without talking about the welfare and wellbeing of young people”.
Touching on the potential of the youth on the continent, Dr Bawumia stressed that Africa had the largest generation of young people in history and expressed the hope that they would have the capacity to shape the future of the African continent and make it “the lion she is meant to be”.
The Vice-President cited the Asian Tigers such as South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia which had seen much improvement because of systematic investments made in the development of their human capital.
He said their period of doom and growth happened when their population shifted from having a large segment of the population being dependent on one dominated by the working class.
Dr Bawumia said Africa should not fail to realise that “we are at the brim of the breakthrough because it is currently at the stage of the Asian Tigers”.
However, the Vice-President said taking advantage of the big opportunities a large youthful population engendered did not automatically guarantee the growth and prosperity of the continent, insisting that demographic dividends did not come automatically but had to be earned.
Describing Africa as the youngest continent in the world, the Vice-President Bawumia said no one needed to tell the people of the continent that mass unemployment among the youth was a ticking time bomb, saying the “so-called Arab Spring is enough testimony that lack of employment opportunities can undermine social cohesion and political stability”.
With between 10 and 12 million youth joining the labour force in Africa every year, the Vice-President emphasised that the continent had to pay maximum attention to job creation.
Dr Bawumia advised that for young people to exploit the opportunities that abound in Africa, they must have the skills and training to take advantage of them.
Ghana beyond aid
To get to a situation of Ghana beyond aid, and for that matter Africa beyond aid, “we will have to harness effectively our own resources and deploy them creatively and efficiently for rapid economic transformation”, he said.
That, Dr Bawumia added, “would require hard work, enterprise, creativity and innovation and maintaining a consistent fight against corruption in public life and break from the mentality of dependency and manifest a confident can-do spirit influenced by love for country.”
The Vice-President, who did not mince words on digital technology, indicated that the 21st century was that of science and technology and challenged the African youth to make a mastery of digital technology if they were to survive in this competitive technological environment.
Dr Bawumia also called for the linkage of COVID-19 strategies into the national African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) plans, given the potential of the AfCFTA to become a game-changer for Africa’s economic transformation.
The President of Rwanda, Mr Paul Kagame, in a speech read on his behalf, commended President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo for hosting the summit.
Africa, he said, was worthy in many aspects but most especially with a young generation full of energy and ideas.
He said the youth of Africa were well positioned to take the continent’s transformation to the next level by building on the strides made in past years.
With a more educated, empowered and connected generation, President Kagame expressed the optimism of Africa’s accelerated growth.
The recent outbreak of COVID-19, he said, had made it clear that with developed internal capabilities the continent could be more resilient.
The Assistant Secretary General and Director of UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa, Ms Ahunna Eziakonwa, said it would take the youth of Africa to transform the continent.
The UNDP, she added, believed in the transformative potential of the AfCFTA and was committed to work steadfastly to translate the ambition and promise of the AfCFTA into opportunities for young people on the continent.
Ms Eziakonwa, therefore, urged the youth of the continent to be prepared to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the AfCFTA.
“In the existence of the AfCFTA, the stage is set. It will take Africa’s youth to transform the continent,” she stated.
That, the Director of UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa said, was because it would take Africa’s youth to produce the goods and services that would constitute the made-in-Africa revolution and start the industries that would add value to Africa’s raw materials.
Giving an overview of the summit, the Executive Director of YouthConnekt Africa, (YCA), Ms Oulie Keita, said the vision was to connect the youth of Africa to socio-economic transformation.
Ms Keita said a youth connect export accelerator initiative had been launched to support 17 young African entrepreneurs to export across Africa.
This year’s YouthConnekt Africa (YCA) summit, which has over 15,000 participants from about 24 countries across the African continent, was an annual event that connected the youth from the continent and beyond with policy influencers, political leaders and public, private and development sector institutions to engage, discuss, design and accelerate youth empowerment efforts at the continental level.
The three-day conference, the fourth since its inception, also serves as a platform for a number of young people from all over the continent to learn and engage in YouthConnekt Africa’s youth development programme.
This year’s edition is being hosted by Ghana in partnership with the UNDP and it is focused on positioning the African youth to cater to the AfCFTA market.