The African Union (AU) celebrated its 54th AU Day on 25 May 2017 themed “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through investments in Youth”. The Centre for African Democratic Affairs (CADA) congratulates AU and all the African people and also urge every citizens on the continent to join the moving watchdog vehicles and not just see themselves as passengers, commentators and pedestrians.
Over the last decade or so, AU has created a number of initiatives to consolidate its democratisation efforts on the continent whilst striving so hard in building a solid foundation for sustainable and inclusive development. Its most famous efforts, the Charter on Democracy and the innovative African Peer Review Mechanism, may not be able to prevent rogue behaviour by individual corrupt leaders, but they are helping in setting standards and opening the political space to the majority of their citizens. Unfortunately, both initiatives are currently going through rough times, with the Review Mechanism lacking a prominent champion, and the Charter still not ratified. CADA much-admired this year’s theme but will to stress that investments made today in the youth, who represent Africa’s greatest asset, will determine the development trajectory of the continent in the next 50 years and position the continent towards realizing the “Africa We Want,” a strong, united and influential global player and partner as envisioned in Agenda 2063.
To achieve the objective of harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in African youth, CADA will like to urge leaders on the continent to intensify their efforts in address rising social and economic inequalities and ensure that no African is left behind. The annual event should undoubtedly offers an opportunity to reflect on its history, liberation struggle, economic and social development, and a celebration of its rich and diverse cultures that seek to promote good governance and development, fight corruption and embrace social protection and promote peaceful coexistence.
In the opinion of CADA, one must not lose focus that high rates of unemployment, lack of political participation, gender inequalities and deep imbalances in the distribution of local level resources, accentuated by political patronage, lie at the heart of the continent’s failing democracies and will definitely hamper the achievement of the theme if nothing is done to address corruption on the continent. Youth and women are among the most marginalized populations in sub-Saharan Africa. Africans below the age of 35 account for 65% of Africa’s total population, yet their unemployment rate, at 27%, stands at twice the world average.
In moving forward, CADA is of the view that it is crucial to tackle the root causes of corruption and conflict, terrorism and violent extremism, and foster peace and stability which will eventually put hopes in the faces of the African youth. CADA believes that the private sector had a key role to play in harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in youth by creating jobs, promoting innovation in technologies and services, and supporting the infrastructure transition needed to fulfil Africa’s sustainable development objectives.
In the opinion of CADA, there is an opportunity for the continent to pursue industrialisation in a more environmentally sustainable manner through climate-smart agriculture, renewable energy and arresting deforestation by resisting the ongoing neo-colonialism including “China-sation”.
There is no doubt that AU has created many frameworks and normative instruments to achieve an inclusive, democratic and prosperous continent yet there are more to achieve despite the many challenges ahead regarding effectively ensuring that critical norms and laws become a reality for African people. CADA believes that this cannot happen without the collaborative efforts of the governments, civil society organisations and other stakeholders including the private sector.
CADA recommends that African leaders will as a matter of urgency place an emphasis and focus on the youth and the women’s rights as it is their fundamental obligation and also make economic sense since at least investing in the youth and women on the continent guarantee sustainable peace, community stability and cohesion that will ensure and consolidate the continent’s efforts of harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in youth. There is no doubt that investing in youth will contributes to the prosperity of families, communities and the continent and also support the strive to harness the demographic dividend through investments in youth.
Congratulation once again to all African people!!
Executive Director, CADA