By Arrey Obenson
As African leaders gather in Nairobi for the Tokyo Conference for International Trade (TICAD VI), Junior Chamber International (JCI) a global non-profit organization with a mission to provide development opportunities that empower young people to create positive change through the JCI African Youth Development Summit. The event, coordinated in collaboration with TICAD VI intends to inspire, educate and engage young people to accept and assume responsibility for the development of Africa.
The TICAD initiative and process supported by the government of Japan aims to give Africa an opportunity to focus on critical development issues including economic growth, agriculture, human resource capacity development, infrastructure, energy, education, the threat posed by violent extremism, as well as social stability across the continent.
Clearly the TICAD initiative therefore seeks to develop a prosperous future for Africa and by hosting this meeting in Africa itself, it empowers the people of the continent to take ownership of Africa’s development and future. The future of Africa unquestionably belongs to its young people and while it is necessary to engage government actors, it is imperative that African development includes all sectors of society namely government, business and the civil society. Young people who too often are forgotten in the development process must be given an opportunity to play their part in achieving a common vision for Africa. If the future must be achieved, it must be achieved with young people embracing the vision set in the African Union’s Agenda 2063. Young people in Africa must be empowered to not only embrace that vision but also take ownership and lead the development process. While it is said that young people are leaders of tomorrow, JCI contends that young people will only make good leaders tomorrow if they begin to lead today. It is for foregoing reasons that JCI is organizing on the sidelines of the TICAD VI a summit of young African Leaders from nearly 30 African Countries to craft a framework for youth participation in the development of Africa.
In Africa, the youth population is growing rapidly. In 2015, there were about 226 million youth aged 15-24 years. By 2030, it is projected that the number of youth in Africa will have increased by 42 percent and is expected to continue to grow rapidly, more than doubling from current levels by 2055. These statistics are troubling especially recognizing that youth unemployment is on the rise, there is a tremendous mismatch of job skills, opportunities and rapidly changing economies, there is a lack of opportunity for participation in development and the rising apathy and disillusionment among young people as well as the increasing threat of violent extremism. The path therefore to a prosperous future for Africa must include these young people, a failure of which will undoubtedly be counterproductive no matter how much planning takes place at TICAD VI in Nairobi this weekend.
By hosting the JCI African Youth Development Summit, JCI will inspire participants at the Summit to create a movement that will mobilize young people in communities across Africa to become part of the solution in design of a bright future for the continent. Participants will commit to create awareness for Agenda 2063 and the Global Goals for Sustainable Development among young people in local communities as well as take grassroots action to implement the same.
Africa needs a new generation of young leaders whose personal interest is not in conflict with societal common good. The JCI African Youth Development Summit will sow the seeds to develop this new breed of leaders. Change certainly will take time, but by creating opportunities for young people to participate in development, positive change will invariably take place community after community, country after country across this beautiful continent.
The writer is the Secretary General Junior Chamber International, Inc. (JCI)