Optimism at AU Summit for youth development in Africa
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,