Op­ti­mism at AU Sum­mit for youth devel­op­ment in Africa

ChinAfrica - - Africa Report - By Charles Onunaiju

THE his­tory of all de­vel­oped economies and even the emerg­ing ones have been their abil­i­ties to har­ness hu­man re­source into cap­i­tal and use its di­verse mul­ti­plier ef­fects to cre­ate value chains span­ning all other re­sources cat­e­gories. In ad­di­tion, this process un­leashes out­comes that in­clude a rise in na­tional eco­nomic ag­gre­gates and more im­por­tantly, im­proved qual­ity of liv­ing stan­dards for cit­i­zens. It is be­cause of the foun­da­tional im­pli­ca­tions of hu­man re­sources that many de­vel­oped and emerg­ing economies in­vest in strate­gic sec­tors such as ed­u­ca­tion and health and other key ini­tia­tives of ca­pac­ity build­ing. Even for na­tions with less nat­u­ral re­source en­dow­ment, the mas­sive in­vest­ment in hu­man re­source devel­op­ment and ca­pac­ity build­ing fills the deficit gap be­tween the two, en­abling devel­op­ment and growth.

Africa’s great­est chal­lenge is to har­ness its abun­dant hu­man re­sources and trans­late them into cap­i­tal for trans­form­ing economies and so­ci­eties for the ben­e­fit of all. Africa’s huge nat­u­ral re­source en­dow­ment has not been trans­lated into ap­pre­cia­ble ag­gre­gates to spur sus­tain­able and in­clu­sive devel­op­ment, largely be­cause of a deficit of the req­ui­site man­power to ex­plore and har­ness it to the needs and pri­or­i­ties of re­spec­tive na­tional goals.

It is against this back­ground that the core theme of this year’s 29th Or­di­nary Ses­sion of the Assem­bly of African Union (AU), Har­ness­ing the De­mo­graphic Div­i­dend Through In­vest­ment in Youth, is both in­struc­tive and epochal.

This is so, be­cause youths in Africa have fea­tured promi­nently in the past as can­non fod­der used as vi­o­lent thugs and touts to set­tle po­lit­i­cal scores among po­lit­i­cal par­ties in con­tention for power.

This en­dur­ing abuse of youth­ful en­ergy and strength has taken its toll, over the years in the crit­i­cal deficit of man­power in the con­struc­tion of con­tem­po­rary African economies. The re­al­iza­tion of the dy­namism and re­source­ful­ness of youth may have come against the back­ground of a fall­ing pro­file of nat­u­ral re­sources as a key cat­a­lyst for grow­ing economies of the re­spec­tive states in Africa. The recog­ni­tion of the cen­tral­ity of the youth and the de­scrip­tion of it as po­ten­tial de­mo­graphic div­i­dend, worth in­vest­ing and har­ness­ing, speaks vol­umes of the re­think in strate­gic cor­ners of in­flu­ence and power in Africa.

It is worth wel­com­ing. The em­bar­rass­ing sce­nar­ios in re­cent times where African youths are drown­ing in droves in the Mediter­ranean Sea, while strug­gling to cross over to Europe for a bet­ter life that ex­ists only in their imag­i­na­tion, would have set off alarm bells in sev­eral African cap­i­tals and also, at the AU head­quar­ters in Ad­dis Ababa. The com­mit­ment to har­ness the de­mo­graphic div­i­dend and in­vest in the youth is his­tor­i­cally late.

But it is also a wel­come re­lief in rec­og­niz­ing Africa’s pre­cious as­set, whose trans­for­ma­tional prospects were first seen in the phe­nom­e­nal en­ergy with which the African youths drove the anti-colo­nial strug­gles in the early and mid­dle of the last cen­tury. How­ever, the re­port to the AU’S 29th Or­di­nary Ses­sion by Cha­dian Pres­i­dent Idriss Deby Itno on the lead agenda of the sum­mit, which also dis­cussed mi­gra­tion and em­ploy­ment, put the sub­ject of in­vest­ments in the youth high on the agenda, which it ac­tu­ally de­serves.

In con­clu­sion and the way for­ward, the 43-page re­port on the sub­ject pre­sented at the ses­sion stated that “har­ness­ing the de­mo­graphic div­i­dend in Africa presents a strate­gic op­por­tu­nity to re­al­ize the as­pi­ra­tions and goals of Agenda 2063.” It also af­firms that “Africa has been com­mit­ted to trans­form­ing its large youth pop­u­la­tion into a devel­op­ment as­set.”

Com­mend­ing the theme of the sum­mit, the re­port states that “build­ing on pre­vi­ous de­ci­sions of the African Union Assem­bly on youth em­pow­er­ment, the 2017 theme of Har­ness­ing the De­mo­graphic Div­i­dend Through In­vest­ment in Youth has the po­ten­tial to have far-reach­ing im­pli­ca­tions that would ad­dress all the key is­sues that gov­ern­ments have had to con­tend with,

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