Dr Mohammed ibn Chambas, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for West Africa and the Sahel, has said there is the need for African youth empowerment to accelerate the continent’s socioeconomic development.
“It won’t be long for a democratic Africa to put its youths at the epicenter of its calculations. The youth hold the ace. They can bring about the paradigm shift through a combination of thinking, planning and demonstrating a better capacity than previous generations, to effectively implement and execute plans to achieve set targets at national, regional and continental levels,” Dr Chambas said.
Dr Chambas said this in a speech at the Inaugural Annual Leadership Lecture of the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA).
The lecture was held under the theme: “Leadership in Africa: Meeting Global Standards”, out of which Dr Chambas, carved a sub topic: “Equipping the Youth to Renegotiate Africa’s Position in the Era of Africa’s Rising”.
“The moment is now to change the narrative of Africa being a rich continent of poor people. With a well-educated, skilled and modern technology compliant, patriotic and pan African oriented youth, Africa will truly emerge,” he said.
“The time is now to build a peaceful, secure, democratic and prosperous Africa for all; a continent in which no one is left behind,” he added.
Dr Chambas said such was the vision of the UN Agenda 2030 and AU Agenda 2063; declaring that “Africa is indeed rising!”
He said the African youth was drastically changing roles; as opportunities were subsumed in the changing dynamics of the economies, so were the challenges – especially of employability and entrepreneurship.
“The strength of any society is within the strength and resolve of its youth – what investment are young people making in our continent today and how are our leaders mainstreaming them into the governance and administrative structure to negotiate continued prosperity for their generation?” he asked rhetorically.
“With the Fourth Industrial Revolution upon us and the rate at which technology is advancing, it is critical that we have a sufficiently educated and skilled workforce to be able to drive Africa in this direction.
“There is currently a mismatch between industry demands and the education curriculum. Educational institutions need to update their curricula to align with the direction in which the world and Africa are going.
“If we ignore this, our young people will have irrelevant qualifications that the continent will be unable to benefit from,” he said.
“We need to give relevant education to empower and equip African youths to be in a position to renegotiate a better spot for Africa in the global world.”
Dr Chambas explained that local solutions must be sought for local challenges; stating that “but for this to happen, we need to encourage and cultivate innovation among our youth”.
“With the growth of the continent, it only makes sense for us to industrialize in order to be less reliant on importing products for consumption from outside the continent.
“And to industrialize, the youth must be equipped with the necessary job skills and technology know how to drive the process.
“The youths themselves must intentionally create a culture that encourages the building and shaping of the Africa that they want.”
He said: “The change they want begins with them coming together and developing their own culture and value system for thinking, planning, implementation, accountability, integrity, and collaboration. It is up to the African youth to shape the narrative of our continent.”
He said if countries were to succeed in achieving the SDGs, leaving no one behind along the way, governments must seek out an active and substantive engagement of young women and men from diverse backgrounds in national-level planning, implementation, and monitoring.
He said in addition, the youths could take an active part in addressing international issues having to do with arms trade treaty, migration and mediation to name a few, in their respective roles as students, workers or volunteers.
Professor Abednego Feehi Okoe Amartey, Vice Chancellor, UPSA, said young people now and in the future would play a big role in how the world adapts to global challenges.
“With the youth come energy, innovation and optimism – if there are supportive environments and opportunities,” he stated.