On a recent sunny Monday morning, 200 youth leaders from 40 African countries crowded into a conference room at the Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss how the African Union (AU) could better engage young people in the political process and create opportunities for them to support AU efforts to promote democracy in Africa.
Building on prior consultations and youth surveys facilitated by NDI, these young women and men discussed the role of youth in African institutions, programs and initiatives in advance of the AU’s High Level Dialogue on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance, which will gather heads of state from across the continent on Oct. 30 and 31 in Dakar, Senegal. The meeting’s theme is “Silencing the Guns: African Youth Building a Culture of Democracy and Peace in Africa.”
Africa is the ‘youngest’ continent, with the majority of people under 35 years of age. The consultation was part of the AU’s ongoing efforts to incorporate youth voices into discussions on democracy and peacebuilding.
“The conference was a wonderful opportunity and experience for me,” said Emmy Otim, a participant from Uganda. “The richness of ideas, intellectual discussions and the openness to share thoughts was very inspiring. The conference re-energized my resolve to continue inspiring youth and reminding them of their potential and abilities to be the change they would like to see.”
The event provided an opportunity for young people to express their opinions and thoughts to their peers in person and on social media. In three days, participants posted more than 6,500 tweets that engaged more than 3 million users and were seen by over 37 million people spanning 42 countries on five continents.
The consultation was organized by the African Union with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and German Federal Enterprise for International Cooperation (GIZ). Participants focused on issues ranging from education and elections to socio-economic development, gender equality and Pan-Africanism.
At the end of the consultation, participants drafted a list of recommendations and corresponding proposed actions to bolster the role of youth in Africa’s democratic governance. These included developing a youth mentorship program, organizing regional youth training workshops on how to advocate within AU institutions and incorporating social media to improve communication.
“Our leaders should sit and talk with us, we should not merely be consulted on the side,” said Baxolise Dlali, a participant from South Africa. “If our leaders truly understand and recognize the role of youth leadership, they will ensure that they raise other leaders to pass the baton onto.”
Fifteen delegates from the Nairobi consultation will attend the High Level Dialogue to present their recommendations, which informed the creation of the African Governance Architecture’s (AGA) Youth Engagement Strategy.
NDI has played a central role in the development of the strategy by administering a survey gauging youth perspectives on how to improve democratic governance in Africa and supporting regional consultations in Tanzania and South Africa. The regional meetings engaged young people representing 35 organizations from 15 countries on how to involve youth in the political process. The survey and regional youth consultations both fed into the planning and deliberations in Nairobi.
“It is only through strategic partnerships and alliances that Africa's youth bulge can be meaningfully harnessed for the consolidation of democratic governance in Africa,” said Ibraheem Sanusi, the youth engagement lead for the African Governance Architecture (AGA). “The African Union is ready to build stronger and more sustainable ties with NDI toward the development and implementation of the AGA Youth Engagement Strategy.”
Published on October 28, 2014