Prioritizing Investment in African Youth key to unleashing their full potential and achievement of Sustainable Development Goals

“Any society that does not succeed in tapping into the energy and creativity of its youth will be left behind” Kofi Annan

Date: Thursday, October 25, 2018

Nerima Wako, participant from Kenya follows the discussions. Photo: UN Women/ Faith Bwibo
Nerima Wako, participant from Kenya follows the discussions. Photo: UN Women/ Faith Bwibo

Africa has the youngest population with over 40% of its people below the age of 15, while about 20% of the population fall between 15-24 years age. This exponential growth presents the continent with a great opportunity to harness the potential of its youth in the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is the international community’s ambitious response to today’s most pressing global development challenges. 

The youth played a key role in shaping this agenda and experience first-hand many of the issues it seeks to address. Despite this, progress has been uneven, with many young people across the continent still experiencing interlocked forms of discrimination, limited political inclusion, high levels of poverty, and limited access to health, educational opportunities, entrepreneurship and decent jobs. Moreover, young women and girls are disproportionately affected by these forms of discrimination.

The commitment to ‘leave no one behind’ has been a key feature of all the discussions on the SDGs. Towards this end, UN Women, in collaboration with diverse stakeholders and partners held an Africa Youth Conference on Unleashing the Potential of Youth in Africa - Prioritizing Investment in Youth Development in the Post-2015 Agenda, from 23 – 25 October 2018, at the United Nations Office in Nairobi, Kenya.

Photo: UN Women Africa
Photo: UN Women Africa

The Africa-wide convening designed to open spaces for young people to contribute to inclusive and equitable development and decision-making processes within the framework of the SDGs. It provided a platform for young people to engage in dialogue with themselves and decision makers including government, CSOs and private sector to share ideas, experiences and innovative approaches for effectively addressing youth development challenges facing Africa.

“It’s a good platform that has brought together young leaders, who are great thinkers from across Africa who work tirelessly in their communities towards the SDGS,” Fatma Ahmed, a participant from Tanzania.

Among the themes covered were  enhancing youth access, especially young women and girls, to sustainable livelihood through social entrepreneurship; youth engagement in governance, political participation, leadership and decision making with a focus on ensuring access, active participation and decision making by young women; Youth action in preventing violence and other harmful practices against young women and girls; and Showcasing and documenting youth-led social innovations addressing development challenges facing youth in Africa.  In her opening remarks, the UN Women Regional Director Izeduwa Derex-Briggs urged the participants to use the platform to network. “This conference is going to enlighten some of you. I hope that you will learn and network with each other. This is a huge opportunity for the youth of Africa to talk to teach other,” she remarked.