Unleashing the Potential of African Youth to Achieve the 2030 Agenda

Date: Thursday, November 8, 2018

Participants of the African Youth Conference 2018.

The Africa Youth Conference, under the theme “Unleashing the Potential of Youth in Africa – Prioritizing Investment in Youth Development in the post 2015 Agenda”, took place in Nairobi, Kenya between October 23-25. Organized and sponsored by UN Women, UNDP, UN Environment, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNICEF, and other partners, the conference offered a regional platform to 300+ young people and key stakeholders to share ideas and experiences and showcase innovative approaches to effectively address youth challenges in Africa.

The three-day conference was attended by young entrepreneurs, activists, human rights advocates, civil society experts and CEOs. It focused on three main themes: enhancing youth access, especially young women and girls to sustainable livelihood through social entrepreneurship; youth engagement in governance/political participation leadership and decision making; and youth action in preventing violence and other harmful practices against young women and girls. The conference also included a special focus on innovation, and recognized the achievements of youth entrepreneurs who are spear-heading social innovations to address development challenges facing youth in Africa.

Members of the Agora network participated in the conference, representing North Africa.

Members of the UN Women Gender Innovation Agora from Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco participated in the conference, moderating and leading panels discussions on youth leadership, political and economic empowerment, countering extremism, and ending violence against women and girls. The Gender Innovation Agora was initiated by the UN Women Regional Office for the Arab States (ROAS) to tap into emerging talent and activism among youth in North Africa and the Middle East. Events such as the Africa Youth Conference enable members of the Agora to come together to exchange experiences and ideas with youth facing similar challenges in other development contexts.

With about 60 per cent of its population being under 30 years old, Africa is the youngest continent – this means challenges, but also opportunities. The conference served as an inclusive platform for youth from across the continent to discuss these and to start an inter-generational dialogue on how to address them. The meeting participants confirmed the need for the youth and women’s rights agendas to be taken into account by States in their development planning and called for engagement with all stakeholders, including civil society and the private sector, who were also represented at the conference.

Topics surrounding youth, women’s rights and the importance of access to technology were extensively discussed. It was noted that access to digital tools will be crucial to ensure that no one is left behind from enjoying the benefits of equitable and sustainable development. Numerous youth-led initiatives already include technology and digital communications, demonstrating the importance of engaging youth innovators in this field.

During the conference, Lena Karlsson, Manager of UN Women’s Men and Women for Gender Equality Programme, launched the Youth Advocacy Kit, a resource for youth leadership and actions to promote gender equality online and offline. The toolkit highlights ways in which youth can influence decision-making at community, local and national levels to achieve gender equality. A critical strategic approach running through the toolkit is the importance of engaging young men as gender equality advocates. Download the toolkit here.

The conference’s youth steering committee issued a joint statement highlighting the importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the UN Youth Strategy and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 to inclusive development in Africa. The joint statement called for the promotion of youth rights and the participation of youth in decision-making processes, strengthening the voices of youth, intergenerational dialogue and the investment of governments in their young people. This was in line with the acknowledgement of the international community in adopting Agenda 2030 that, as the leaders of tomorrow, youth have a special role to play in achieving sustainable development.

Voices from the Africa Youth Conference

“In all African countries and societies, we are facing the same challenges: young people can see all the potential but cannot take the lead, because the power is held by the older generation.”

Fadzayi Mahere, lawyer, Zimbabwe.

“You can always be a champion for women wherever you are. Let all your actions show consideration and commitment towards women and girls at all times."

Soraya Bahgat, founder of Tahrir Bodyguard, Egypt.

“With 90 per cent of jobs expected to require ICT skills, enhancing women and girls’ access to and use of ICT can help close the digital gender gap and empower women to take leadership of their own life and claim their rights.”

Sandra Krichen, Agora member, Tunisia.

“Africa has a vibrant, energetic and resilient youthful population with a great potential to transform the continent.”

Hanna S. Tetteh, Director General of the United Nations Office in Nairobi.

"HerStory is searching for and documenting a better understanding of the way women and girls live their lives and the gendered inequalities & injustices that hold them back every day."

May Hashem, co-founder of HerStory, Egypt.

"2.1 billion Egyptian pounds: this was the cost of violence against women in Egypt in 2015. This is really bad, but … we can use that number to push the government to take action against it"

Nabil Hendi, youth advocate, Egypt.

All Photos: UN Women/Emad Karim