The greatest mistake, the fault for which we cannot forgive ourselves is to cease our obstinate pursuit of youth empowerment. After realising that when we persist in our pursuit of our deepest desire for empowerment, we will eventually
produce, we, the young people of Africa, representing National Youth Councils, civil society and other youth organisations, gathered in Victoria Falls on April 11 2010 for the Youth Forum.
The forum was held in the framework of the Third Conference of African Union of Ministers in Charge of Youth (COMY3), under the auspices of the Pan-African Youth Union hosted by Zimbabwe Youth Council in partnership with the Ministry of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment.
We called for the establishment of an African Youth Fund, to make available financial support to national youth councils in Africa through the Pan-African Youth Union. We defined economic empowerment as a structured process where young people gain the ability and authority to make real economic, social and political decisions. We believe this is the process that builds capacity to implement change, in young people, for use in their own lives, their communities, and in their society, by acting on issues that they define as important.
Often speakers at the UN, AU, Sadc or any other regional grouping describe the youth as the engine for development. In Africa, statistics clearly state that in 2025 the young people of today will be the main drivers of African economies.
This is so for a number of reasons. In terms of head count the youth form a larger part of Africa’s population and human energy. For example 34,3 percent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa in 2007 were youths. The young people of today are the best educated in human history and that includes our Zimbabwe and gender gaps are steadily closing up.
The obvious social advantages provided by the youth when empowered include a greater degree of mobility, resourcefulness, dynamism and flexibility. Youth are well known to be more creative and inventive than adult populations, and take the lead in several areas of development. In insight of these realities and in pursuit of youth empowerment we called for unwavering support for youths through their inclusion in economic projects and the provision of preferential access to natural resources in the continent.
We highlighted the need for youth to have access to capital through the establishment of economic empowerment funds at national and continental levels and called upon African governments and multilateral institutions to facilitate and assist in the creation of such funds. We drew attention to the need for youth to have a broad-based access to education, skills development and loans to start and grow their own businesses and emphasised the need for all African youth to have access to decent work for sustainable livelihoods.
We also recommended the provision of subsidies for interventions that benefit the youth, levies that are dedicated to support young people. We want youths to gain economic independence including trade barriers which could be imposed to generate resources to be directed to youth development measures and called for urgent implementation and popularisation of National Action Plans on Youth Employment.
Several commitments and policies on youth have since been crafted at national, regional and global levels, however, these initiatives are yet to translate into tangible programmes. Thus, we are highlighting a real need that still exist, a need to put in place monitoring mechanisms which will ensure that youth benefit on a national regional and global scale.
As the youth population continues to increase it is essential that we address the funding challenges and provide real opportunities for youth, with a view to implementing youth programs within the plan of action of the decade for youth development in African countries.
For youths there is no better gratification than being successful, progressive and having real access to the means of production. President Mugabe, the Ministry responsible for youth in Government and the Zimbabwe Youth Council continue to call for partnerships on the youth empowerment drive, the private sector must answer these calls and come on board with real intentions.
The intentions must be backed by the will to empower the young Zimbabweans who are indeed the custodians of this country. In fastest growing economies in our world today, the youth are indisputably the age group that is driving these economies!
The youth have always been known for energy, creativity and enthusiasm but we forget energy itself is a destruction if not brought to a focus, creativity is a potential enemy if not nurtured and mentored, while enthusiasm can easily meltdown if not fuelled with the proper motivation.
Innocent Katsande is the communications officer of Zimbabwe Youth Council.