The President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has challenged Africa’s youth to take mental, physical and economic lead roles in positioning Africa as the giant of the future.
In a speech read on his behalf by the Vice President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, at the YouthConnekt Africa Summit taking place in Accra, President Akufo-Addo maintained that the African could be as successful as any other, and urged the youth, who make up a very large proportion of Africa’s population, to take their rightful place in shaping the continent’s destiny.
“I do not accept that Africa has a DNA that dooms us to failure. Africans can, like all the other peoples that have succeeded, make life meaningful and worth living for their own people. We must cultivate an irrepressible desire to do right by the citizen.
“There is an abundance of dynamic, entrepreneurial talent on our continent struggling to express itself and take advantage of such conditions. We have to encourage this expression with full force, and ensure that we can stand on our own feet, and make it impossible for the systematic looting and plundering of our human and material resources, that have characterized much of our modern history, to continue. This is the significance of the concept of Ghana Beyond Aid, indeed, of Africa Beyond Aid.”
The President continued:
“Simply put, I just want us to have more self-confidence and accept that we shall never reach the level of development we aspire to by relying on aid or external assistance, no matter how generous. It is a mindset that I wish Africans to discard, a mindset of living on charity and handouts.
“To get to a situation Beyond Aid, we will have to harness effectively our own resources, and deploy them creatively and efficiently for rapid economic and social transformation.”
Noting that a youthful population has always had a major impact on the growth of economies across the world, President Akufo-Addo said Africa, despite having the largest generation of young people in history, must take active steps to make the opportunities inherent in having such a demographic advantage a reality.
“The population opportunity will not automatically guarantee us a future of growth and prosperity. Demographic dividends do not come automatically. They have to be earned.
“With over forty percent (40%) of Africa’s working population between the ages of fifteen (15) and twenty-four (24), Africa is the youngest continent in the world… Yet, too many of our young people are trapped in poverty, with few opportunities to learn or to earn a decent living. According to the World Bank, youth account for sixty percent (60%) of all African unemployed.
“No one needs to tell us that mass unemployment in Africa, especially amongst her youth, is a ticking time bomb. The so-called Arab Spring showed clearly that lack of employment opportunities can undermine social cohesion and political stability. With between ten (10) to twelve (12) million youths joining the labour force every year, Africa has to pay maximum attention to job creation,” he warned.
Increasing investment in young people is key, the President noted. This includes promoting diverse, quality education that prepares them for a future of opportunities.
“For young people to be able to exploit the economic opportunities that abound in Africa, they must have the skills and training necessary to take advantage of them. In doing this, Africa must fashion an education policy that is also gender sensitive, for women are a slight majority of Africa’s youth.
“There is also a critical need to involve young people in decisions that affect them. We cannot talk about sustainable development without the active involvement of youth. Africa cannot talk about shaping the future without talking about the welfare and wellbeing of young people. It is important that Africa takes these ideas forward to harness the value of a youthful population, holding human rights, gender equality, development of human capital, and dignity at the center of all our investments. Only by providing opportunities that open the future to all young people do we create a brighter future,” President Akufo-Addo maintained.
The YouthConnekt Summit is an annual convening that connects youth from across the continent and beyond with policy influencers, political leaders, and public, private and development sector institutions to engage, discuss, design, and accelerate youth empowerment efforts at a continental level.
This year’s 3-day summit, under the theme “Repositioning the Youth for the Post-Covid Economy and AfCFTA Opportunities,” is being attended virtually and in person by youth from over 30 African countries, and will be addressed by a large number of high profile speakers including Hon. Rosemary Mbabazi, Minister for Youth and Culture for Rwanda, who will represent H.E. President Paul Kagame, Mr. Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Dr Patrice Motsipe, President of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), Mr Charles Abani, the UN Resident Representative in Ghana, and Ghana’s Minister for Youth and Sports, Hon Mustapha Ussif.