Africa should prioritise youth issues

Midrand, South Africa: The Rt. Hon. Speaker of Parliament of Uganda has urged African legislators and the continent’s leaders to rank matters of youth high on their agenda. She said that in a world of adult concerns, young people are often overlooked and this affects the youth as well as economies and societies at large.

 

Rebecca Kadaga was on Thursday, 10th August 2017 addressing the 9th Annual Speakers’ Conference of African Parliaments in Midrand, South Africa. The two-day Conference is running under the theme, “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in the Youth.

 

In a continent where 60 percent of the population is below the age of 25, Kadaga said the current situation of young people in Africa does not auger well.

“The high unemployment rate remains a security issue in Africa, driving youth to violence and crime,” she said adding that “the agitations by young people in the continent are a manifestation of socio-economic marginalization, unsound economic and social policies, corrupt governments, exclusion and denial of basic rights.

She said leaders ought to ask themselves questions such as: how have youth been prepared for the labour market; and whether the courses they are studying will be relevant.

“Are we preparing them for hoe agriculture or a better agriculture using technology? Are we preparing them for our local, regional or international market?” she inquired.

 

With regard to youth migration to seek greener pastures overseas, Kadaga said governments should address instability and war prevalent in some states and provide youth opportunities to work in their countries.

“It is a very serious indictment on Africa that the Mediterranean Sea has become the graveyard of young African people,” she said.

 

Kadaga, who had earlier on been unanimously elected Chairperson of the Bureau of the Conference of African Speakers, informed the presiding officers of the strides Uganda had taken in addressing youth issues. She said the Ugandan legislature is a youthful one and there are specific slots for youth MPs.

 

She explained that through the Youth Livelihood Fund, government was targeting unemployed youth with funds to support their projects. Kadaga added that going forward, as a continent, there’s a need to improve access to credit facilities for youth, establish and operationalize national and regional youth funds to increase young people’s access to business capital.

 

Pan African Parliament President, Roger Nkodo Dang said the theme of the conference was significant to the Agenda 2063 of the African Union and the Sustainable Development Goals. He said the quest for a stable and integrated continent may fail if Africa does not mobilise and equip its sizeable youthful population. Agenda 2063 envisages an Africa whose development is people centered, relying on the potential of the African people, especially women and youth.

 

The Speaker of the Mozambique Parliament said there is need for investments in rural areas, particularly in agriculture to address urbanization and early marriages, which predisposes youth to poverty.

 

Hon. Alban Bagbin, the Speaker Parliament of Ghana, observed that with poor health systems and education, Africa cannot be in position to get any dividend from the demographic transition. He called for collective efforts by the continent’s leaders to address youth concerns.

 

Francine Muyumba, the President of the Pan African Youth Union implored parliaments not to consider sector budgets that do not have programmes targeting youth. She said the role of Parliament in implementing policies to address youth unemployment and radicalization into terrorism cannot be overemphasized.

 

The Speakers noted that employment, entrepreneurship, education and skills development, governance and youth empowerment were key pillars that comprise areas of investment to harness the demographic dividend. They also were in agreement that ratification, domestication and implementation of treaties and other frameworks of the African Union as key in ensuring an enabling environment for youth empowerment.

 

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