TUESDAY NOVEMBER 16, 2021
By Joe Lihundi,
Tranquility News Reporter, Tanzania
Chairman of the East African Community (EAC) Heads of State Summit and Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta has admitted that numbers do not lie, daring his African counterparts to also respect demographic figures of the world’s youthful continent.
Youth aged below 25 though constitute over 65 per cent of Africa’s population, the majority is not reflected in the leadership structures of the continent, prompting President Kenyatta to call on African leaders to ‘do better’.
“This proportion can and should increase, only then we will be able to meet the full benefits of our continent’s demographic dividend,” he said recently when officiating at the opening ceremony of the 5th YouLead Summit in Arusha, Tanzania.
The summit is the EAC flagship of Youth Leadership Development Programme seeking to unlock young persons’ leadership potential for a prosperous bloc comprising six partner states, namely Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.
It is an annual climax event and East Africa’s largest forum of young leaders, mentors, government officials and youth organisations’ representatives from all partner states aimed at brainstorming and arriving at responses to the region’s rapidly growing youth population, their challenges and opportunities.
The Arusha-based Training Centre for Development Cooperation (MS TCDC), the EAC Political Affairs Department and a wide network of partners within East Africa and beyond have since in 2017 been co-hosting the summit.
In a speech virtually read on his behalf by Mr Adan Mohamed, the Chairman of the EAC Council of Ministers and Kenya Cabinet Secretary for EAC and Regional Development, President Kenyatta reminded Africans of the need for acknowledging that they are competing with the rest of the world.
The continent needed to retool and re-skill as quickly as possible, he said, stressing that since the world’s existence, there had never been a time when knowledge was so readily available as now.
He advised the youth in the region to refrain from abusing internet by posting online content that neither added skills nor expertise.
The fourth industrial revolution skills should tackle Africa’s social and economic challenges that could only be resolved with the right environment and contextual adoption of new technologies, he explained.
Africa needed the youth to be at the full front of the cutting-edge technologies and to advise their leaders of what would work best in their countries, added President Kenyatta as he exhorted the delegates to strive to be the best in whatever they did.
Much as leadership required collective effort, President Kenyatta called on the youth to work methodically and patiently through challenges, splitting them into various parts and remembering diversities.
Former Tanzania president Jakaya Kikwete, who doubles as the YouLead Summit Patron, said the youth being central to realisation of the African Union Agenda 2063 and the EAC Vision 2050, they ought to become one of the world’s most skilled population for them to compete favourably in the advent of globalisation.
“Narrow nationalism won’t help,” warned Dr Kikwete, regretting, nonetheless, that the continent was mired in a learning crisis, as the global statistics for out-of-school children, even before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, stood at 260 million, of whom 100 million, equivalent to 38.5 per cent, were from Africa.
The youth denied the right to access education could not fully participate in the socioeconomic and political processes that shaped their future, said Dr Kikwete, stressing:
“Children and young people need to be equipped to prosper in a complex world; when they lose out skills, Africa loses out on sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth and development.”
Africa, he said, should have ensured children and young people did not only get access to education, but also built fundamental technical, socioeconomic and socio-emotional skills needed for them to thrive in the 21st century.
The EAC Secretary General, Dr Peter Mathuki, said it was time dialogue and understanding were promoted across cultures and generations and that a structured approach for youth engagement with policy makers ought to be established.
“Whatever decision we are making for countries and regions, youth must be part of that engagement, we must identify gaps to build the capacity to create job opportunities for them,” he added.
Addressing the YouLead Summit 2021 on behalf of Mr Martin Ngoga, the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) Speaker, the regional Member of Parliament, Ms Josephine Lemoyan, said the House recognised the significance of young people’s participation in good governance, leadership and development processes.
Constituting 65 per cent of the population of the bloc made the youth a critical section of society to forge the EAC integration agenda, she said, warning that the EAC region would face an uphill governance and leadership dilemma if the youth were continuously sidelined in governance structures.
“Their under-representation translates into limited, if any, influence over political and policy processes,” said Ms Lemoyan, as she called on the region to invest in training and employment in a bid to meet the young generations’ needs and to secure the community’s long-term development.
The German envoy to Tanzania and the EAC, Ms Regine Hess, said the East African youth though were provided with political skills, they were denied of opportunities for them to practice.
Citing Uganda where every constituency has one youth representative in Parliament, the German envoy counselled the East African youth to desist from copying from the establishments.
She wondered that most of the summit delegates had worn suits, save for one who had put on jeans. “You look like young copies of us, try to be yourselves and give us hope for future Africa and the world,” she quipped.
Her Switzerland counterpart, Mr Didier Chassot, said promoting digitalisation among the youth might act as a major catalyst, as any sustainable social, economic and political growth needed to engage the youth across spheres of influence.
“Public policies and services that are responsive to youth’s needs are essential to ensure a smooth transition,” explained Mr Chassot, warning that absence or delayed action could result into adverse individual, social and economic impacts.