AU Youth Envoy PRC Briefing, ADDIS ABABA, 20 November 2019
Thank you, your excellency, Ambassador. Osama Abdel Khalek, for having me brief the PRC for the first time under your chairmanship especially as part of the ongoing activities of Africa Youth Month.
Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission,
Let me start by thanking the chairperson of the commission for the opportunity to serve as the first youth envoy. HE Moussa Faki has not only appointed myself as the Special Envoy on Youth but also a Youth Advisory Council representing all the regions in Africa, to support my mandate, an initiative that shows his championing of youth agenda and the african union commission commitment to take young people seriously, to be at the table of decision making.
Therefore, I am honored to join the African Union family. I am going to focus on 3 things during my briefing;
- The state of Youth with some recommendations
- Action Plan 2019/20
- One year in retrospect and the way forward
The State of youth
- The demographic dividend
Africa is the youngest population in the world 60% under 25 years old. If we look into the future, 2030 and 2063 agendas both lie in Africa. Between 2015 and 2050, Africa’s youth will almost double, from 230 to 452 million. By 2050, one in four people on earth will be African.
- Generation gap
It is a blessing to have a young population, that means a labor force, innovation, creativity and bright continent but the issue is the gap between African governments and the large majority of those governed. The average age of African leaders is 66, while that of Africa’s population is 20. This gap is largely reflected not only at the level of the top leadership of government but in most cases across various structures of the state.This gap between the government and the governed is the largest in the world. The resultant sense of alienation of the youth fuels much of the discontent and the resentment that expresses itself in various forms. The inclusion of youth is a matter not only of justice and rights but also of necessity, one on which the peace and stability of the continent depends.Therefore we urgently need intergenerational dialogues and spaces or otherwise youth will choose to create their own space. We must focus on the need to limit and close this gap to ensure an institutional memory and to ensure gains on transitional prevalence including democratic transition and digital transformation. I believe institutionalizing intergenerational dialogue can be a tool to bridge generational gap in Africa, bring youth at the table of decision making and prevent violence that may erupt from marginalization and exclusion.It is very legitimate to ask for greater affirmative action towards youth representation in mainstream government and appointments. This was the secret of the independence generation: our key leaders joined governments when they were in their youth, and had a chance to learn the ropes and be mentored. This intergenerational collaboration is key, it is time for young people to co-lead.
Since the beginning of the First Ten-year Implementation Plan of Agenda 2063, average continental performance in Education has deteriorated.While indicators show access to all levels of education is increasing, a decrease in the quality of education and the growing mismatch between the education system and job market requirements have led to a decline in the performance of Education since 2014.If African countries manage to put in place policies that improve the quality of education and lessen the mismatch between education supply and job market demands, we can enable growing youth population with the knowledge and skills conducive to productive employment.The main challenge though is that current trends are not improving fast enough to keep up with demographic growth, with Africa’s majority age group being under 15. We must think about the future of work excellencies, 70% of young people jobs are not yet created.
Agenda 2063 Goal 18 includes several targets related to the creation of socio-economic opportunities for young people. Promotion of Socio-economic Integration of Youth indicator has deteriorated since 2014.Youth unemployment and underemployment constitutes a central challenge to Africa’s development. It is estimated that African economies generate only 3 million formal jobs annually for an estimated 12 million youth entering the workforce in Africa every year.Approximately 60% of jobs in Africa are considered vulnerable, with only 19% of the population is covered by social insurance.The new professions are not recognized by the African economic models and considered as an informal job. So, African youth remain in the informal sector and those in rural settings, slums or out of school, face layers of marginalisation.A YouTuber today can be paid as much as a teacher, what we still call “informal economy” is the 21st century self-employment and the world will be moving more and more towards that direction so instead of isolating those jobs why not a YouTuber who has the digital skills produces educational content.
Besides, the sustainability of new businesses/start ups created by young people doesn’t exceed 20% and also the problem of the fragility of professions created by NGOs. In the USA and in Europe NGOs contribute to their countries GDP, in Africa they are organs of consumption without any economic advantage.
Despite some impressive performance of the economies of several African states, the youth are not fully participating or benefiting. Whenever youth are asking for support for investment, they are told there is budget cuts, financing constraints, growing budget deficits, but how do we effectively mobilize and distribute resources?
We have become a generation in waithood- waiting for adulthood- young people in africa cannot transition to adulthood because they do not have financial independence and do not participate in political and social life. That’s why the age of youth in Africa is 35 while the age of youth in Europe is max until 24.
- The African Youth Charter (AYC)
Which was adopted in 2006, provides a framework for countries and the continent as a whole to develop and implement tangible youth policies and programmes but still 16 countries have not yet ratified the charter, 13 of them have not signed the charter. It is essential that all our member states sign, ratify and implement the African Youth Charter which will eventually help institutionalize youth participation and provide employment.Excellencies,We are at a tipping point, it is a crisis. African youth are struggling with the contradictions of our time; and they are asking;Why we could nourish the economies and markets of the world but not able to feed our populations?Why many of our best young educated, doctors, teachers, engineers our diaspora are serving other countries not ours?
Why are we hit the hardest by climate change when we contribute the least to it?
Why we have the most youthful population in the world but also the largest refugee and displaced population ?
Why the more educated we are, the less likely we find employment on own continent?
Why governments extend retirement age, while a large part of our population are young?
Why we ended up with a generation in waithood?
How do you expect us to inherit institutions that we did not co-reform
How do you expect us to speak at tables we did not co-design?
How can we prepare for jobs in the disrupted 21st century economy with a 20th century education?
All of this makes African youth angry and frustrated and Africa on the verge of losing its youth, the current trends will continue if urgent action is not taken to make economic growth, youth oriented and youth inclusive. We shouldn’t stop youth from being frustrated, its by turning that anger into our positive force, productivity, action that we will transform our continent.
2019/2020 Action Plan (download here)
As mandated by the chairperson and following his review and approval, On October 2nd, I have Launched 2019/20 Action Plan shaped by online and offline consultations, following the collection of over 1000 feedback submissions from young people online and on the ground consultations with youth groups, youth experts and AUC departments, the work plan draft was shaped into an Action Plan of four Models and Five thematic areas to respond to the needs and expectations of African youth within my office mandate.
This has been extremely appreciated by youth by ensuring they are part of the process and they own this Action Plan. 4 Models of Actions are;
1. Innovation Model
Which advocates for bringing the African Union closer to African youth and meet them where they are, by encouraging member states to establish AU Centers for Innovation and Excellence to be empowering and uniting spaces of learning, creativity and co-creation that engage the youth in the role of the African Union. It would be a way to close the information gap, disseminate to youth in their language, related AUC work, policies and programmes on youth, it could also serve as an incubator space where youth co-create solutions, recommendations and projects on the future of work, cities, policies, reforms etc.
2. Advocacy Model
This is about coordinating action and campaigns with youth through; the establishment of Youth Taskforces, mobilizing Youth Charter Hustlers to ensure the implementation of the AYC and the African Plan of Action for Youth Empowerment as well as support convenings for youth such as the Pan-African Youth Forum, Africa Youth Day, Model AU and advocate for Pan-African Festivals and an AU Youth Summit as Pre-High level meeting for youth before the AU summit.
3.Intergenerational and Policy Model
Which aims to;
- Convene High-Level Intergenerational dialogues nationally, regionally and globally to promote meaningful intergenerational conversations on co-leadership
- Convene workshops to support youth participation in Governance and Political Processes in Africa
- Support AUC Youth Mainstreaming work and Africa Youth Development Index
- Support the development of frameworks on youth, peace and development 4.Communications Model
Which aims to engage young people through innovative online and digital method and there are some ideas listed in the Action Plan on how to do it.
I have already started delivering this Action Plan and here is a year in retrospect of what my office have been able to achieve;
One year in retrospect
The assignment the chairperson gave me has 4 levels of engagement;
1- Working within the commission with all the departments and directorates and with AU organs in supporting the youth agenda. I supported and collaborated closely with ;
- Human Resources Science and Technology convening the 2nd Pan-African Youth Forum and the launch of chairperson’s 1 Million by 2021 Initiative where I also convened the first African Youth Assembly, a youth town hall with more than 400 youth, we continue to work together on the engagement of the AU Youth Volunteers Corps and other youth programmes
- Political Affairs department on youth engagement in public service and Protocol of Free movement of Persons convening and advocacy
- Peace and Security department through youth4peace programme on convening of regional consultations mandated study on the roles and contributions of youth to peace and security in Africa, finalized the continental framework on youth, peace and security, and appointment of the Afrian Youth Ambassadors of Peace,
I have also briefed the AU Peace and Security Council last Friday and it was a great and engaging open debate on youth, peace and security
- Social Affairs department on AU intiatives on the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation and child marriage and we have just opened application for Saleema Youth Victorious ambassadors 6 young female who will advocate for ending FGM
- Citizens and Diaspora Directorate youth engagement in iDOVE project on preventing violent extremism and convening of diaspora youth in Beijing, China
- Silencing the Guns Unit in convening on the roles of youth in Silencing the Guns on the margins of the Africa Regional High-level conference on Counter-Terrorism and the Prevention of Violent Extremism and support communciation strategy and youth engagement for next year
- With the Office of the Envoy on Women, Peace and Security and African Women Leaders Network, we co-organized the first Intergenerational Retreat on Leadership in Africa in Nairobi, in August.
- With the organs, I’ve been supporting APRM youth network during 1st International Youth Symposium in Chad and setting up APRM national youth chapters
I want to commend the collaborative spirit in the institutional coordination between my office and the AU departments and directorates for advancing the youth agenda.
My observation from this year’s experience is that we have plenty of progressive policies and programmes but we have an information gap, we have to be more accessible to youth to remain relevant, so that youth can subscribe and own AU agenda rather than jump on other agendas because they are not informed. For example, I met youth who young didn’t even know that we have a sport division that has huge programs on sports that organises Africa Games and so we need your collaboration on more information sharing on decentralizing and democratizing the information to reach youth in member states in urban and rural settings.
2- Working with member states;
The second level of engagement is working with member states by advocating for African youth charter and agenda2063 flagship projects and mobilizing sustained political commitments on youth issues.
- Every country I have visited this year, I have met with youth groups, artists and civil society actors and established before leaving youth task forces to empower youth to engage with AU
- I want to particularly thank the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports of the Republic of South Sudan which organised and took fully in charge 5 days solidarity mission to Juba which was very impactful. We engaged with various stakeholders; with young women, activists, business community, the policy community, members of the government and parliament and ended the mission with a courtesy call with the President of the Republic of South Sudan who made affirmative action for establishing an innovation center and ratifying the charter and ensuring 20% for youth in the upcoming Transitional Government of National Unity.
- Within the framework of the AU’s Year of Refugees, Returnees and Displaced Persons (IDPs), with the AU mission in South Sudan, I also visited UNMISS the Protection of Civilian Site – POC 3 at Central Equatoria State and met with about 40 IDPs and submitted my report to relevant AU departments with recommendations.
- On the margins of Africa Regional High-level conference on Counter-Terrorism and the Prevention of Violent Extremism, I met the president of the Republic of Kenya who committed to convene a youth conference in Nairobi, Kenya, as Pre-Summit youth high level engagement to enable youth leaders to discuss and develop a common position to be presented and considered by Heads of States and Governments decisions in the 2020 AU summit
- We talk about youth but we don’t see them in AU summits, youth always challenge the summit being a space that make decisions on their behalf that affect their lives and without consulting them. One way to change that is to have a least 2 youth delegates, male and female, in the delegation to the summit. I would really hope for the upcoming summit to go back to young people and tell them that we had as many youth as other generations, who participated in the discussions. This is not only to ensure youth participation but also for accountability. Having youth in member states delegations will put accountability to be on the shoulders of the youth who attend and have responsibility to report back to their constituencies.
3- Working with partners;
The third level of engagement is working with partners, I engaged this year with;
- The United Nations during Commission on the Status of Women, ECOSOC Youth Forum, the UN General Assembly and I also briefed last month the United Nations Security Council under the presidency of South Africa, on “mobilising youth towards silencing the guns”
- I engaged with European partners particularly on bringing African youth agenda to Youth7 and Women7 in the lead up to the G7 summit
- With partners, my office also organized a two-day workshop in Addis Ababa in August, which brought together youth experts and practitioners from civil society and institutions active in strengthening and improving Africa’s democratic governance landscape. The workshop “Young People Reimagining Today’s Politics” produced an anthology and photo exhibition on the contribution of youth to peace and governance that I look forward to launch during AU Summit 2020.
- With partners I also convened 12 intergenerational dialogues across the world and aim to convene 100 intergenerational dialogues(IGDs) by next year.
Most of my activities were facilitated by partners and I hope to see more proactive engagement and support from member states and not rely entirely on partners.
4- Working online – Download Visual summary (October)
The fourth level of engagement is online and that’s what we obviously master. Using digital tools is one of the fundamental principles that I immediately adopted by creating the space and innovative platforms for young people to have increased engagement with the African Union.
- We developed an online infrastructure that consists of a multi purpose website and a network of social media channels that reached within 6 months more than 50,000 followers on social media and over 25,000 subscribers on the site.
- Within this year I have done more than 60 interviews and published 12 Op-Eds which have raised African youth voices and profile on national, regional and international media coverage
- The Action Plan 2019/20 has been downloaded over 2000 times.
- In the spirit of innovation, we curated a Volunteer Network online which is a collection of talented young volunteers from across the African continent with specialised skills to support my office. The Volunteer Network has received since its open call in April 2019 over 5000 applications. The Network is hosted on a virtual Platform called Workplace which facilitate seamless collaboration.
The way we communicate with youth is simple, constant, accountable, and visual. It’s not just one way communication. We listen we incorporate feedback and we report back on how they influenced these decisions.
Online engagement is necessary but it’s not enough because 70% of the continent is offline. That’s why the youth Taskforces at national level are important to disseminate information.
In conclusion your excellencies,
Being the first to occupy this office is in itself a huge responsibility. Despite the fact that I have been actively engaged in various activities and projects on behalf of the Chairperson since my appointment on 1st November 2018, I have only received my contact with the Commission and assumed duty on 13th October 2019. I am hopeful that being based here at HQ will facilitate the process of establishing and strengthening my Office.
It is within this context that I appeal to the PRC to take into consideration the peculiarities of the Office of the Youth Envoy during the consideration of the supplementary budget. It is with your support and commitment to youth development agenda in the continent that I will be able to implement the activities on the Action Plan as well as form a team and build capacity of my office to deliver properly on my mandate.
I would like to also take this opportunity and express my personal and that of the Advisory Council’s readiness to undertake official visits upon request by any Member State, to convene youth, to engage them and support your programmes and youth strategies, as we did in South Sudan. Particularly on the theme of next year we are more than committed to mobilize young people towards preventing and resolving violence.
Excellencies, the solution is in your will to take action. Every young person’s life in our responsibility, it’s the decisions we make here. Young people say that we’re tired of tokenism, of conferences, and meetings about youth empowerment, of big projects for youth, and we just want action we want to see impact at the community level- we want results that address our systemic challenges
It is in the interest of all of us to speed the internet for youth making lives for themselves online. It is in the interest of all of us to be bridges for trade and open borders. For youth to silence the guns we have to give them life with dignity. This is a defining moment for our generation. We hope next year will be a dynamic, participatory and impactful year for African youth.
When young people promise, young people deliver and I am here to deliver with you the youth agenda.
I thank you