Youths are regarded as an agent of change and are a driving force for supporting development. According to the United Nations, young people “contribute to the resilience of their communities, proposing innovative solutions, driving social progress and inspiring political change. They are also agents of change, mobilizing to advance the Sustainable Development Goals to improve the lives of people and the health of the planet”.
The importance of youth as an agent of change and development has been recognised all over the world. Empowerment of youth is an important objective of Agenda 2063, Africa’s strategic framework that aims to deliver on its goal for inclusive and sustainable development.
Along with this, the African Union has developed a policy framework in the form of the African Youth Charter, which prescribes responsibilities to the Member States for the development of youth. The African Youth Charter provides a framework regarding the rights, duties and freedoms of youth and also to ensure the constructive involvement of Youth in the development agenda of Africa and their effective participation in the debates and decision-making processes in the development of the continent.
In line with the objective of Agenda 2063 and the African Youth Charter, the African Union has launched a new initiative focused on creating direct opportunities for the development of youth in Africa, to actively and meaningfully drive the full realisation of Africa’s Agenda 2063.
The initiative is termed as “1 Million by 2021 Initiative” and has been formulated under the theme “Africa unite for youth: Bridging the gap and reaching out to African youth”. It was officially launched by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat on the 24th of April 2019 at AUC Headquarters in Ethiopia. The initiative is convened by the Bureau of the Chairperson and the Department of Human Resources Science and Technology of the AUC.
The objective of the “1 Million By 2021 Initiative” is to concretely reach millions of African youth from across the continent with opportunities and interventions in the key areas of employment, entrepreneurship, education and engagement (4E’s), which will accelerate socio-economic development on the continent. This initiative seeks to foster new approaches towards addressing the multifaceted challenges confronting the youth on the continent. The expectation is that it will embolden various stakeholders to develop creative ideas and help build an ecosystem of efficiencies across the continent in furtherance of youth development.
The initiative will witness the participation of 400 young people from across the continent to co-create solutions on the 4Es. Development partners, the private sector, institutions of higher learning and civil societies will also play a major role in supporting the realisation of the objectives of the initiative.
The initiative aims to build upon the progress Africa is making in improving capacities through education and skills development; creating, as well as establishing conducive environments for, opportunities in employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for young people; and ensuring they are meaningfully engaged in the development agenda of the continent.
Twelve pathways have been identified as drivers for the 4Es that will facilitate the expansion of opportunities in youth development: models for teacher development, mobilising and catalysing capital growth for youth-led start-ups; nurture start-ups; skills transfer hubs; internships and apprenticeships; digital skills; job centres; digital skills; leadership programmes and exchange programmes.
African leaders regard this Initiative as significant with regards to promoting youth empowerment. Moussa Faki Mahamat remarked at the launch of the Initiative that youth have to play an important role in the development and it was about they are also given a platform to express their voices.
The AUC Chairperson’s special envoy on youth, Ms Aya Chebbi said young people need to be included in governance and also the creation of scalable and sustainable opportunities and interventions across the four key areas. The initiative has also received support from the International Labour Organisation (ILO). ILO Regional Director for Africa, Ms Cynthia Samuel-Olonjuwon has said that the organisation will extend its full cooperation to realise the objectives of 1 Million by 2021 Initiative.
By Dr. Ankit Srivastava, Editor