“Give Us Opportunity to Serve Our Nations”, African youth tell leaders, UN officials

  • 29 June 2011

MALABO, Equatorial Guinea—A cross-section of African youth volunteers today made a passionate plea to African leaders and UN representatives to give them a chance to work to develop their continent.

The African youth were speaking at a media forum on youth employment on the eve of the Summit of African Union Summit.

The young people from across Africa said they were eager and ready to contribute to the social and economic development of their nations, but lacked the skills and means to do so, due to high youth unemployment rates across the region.

The theme of the AU Summit, “Accelerating Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development”, was designed to focus attention on youth unemployment as well as on lack of resouces, participation in decision-making processes that affect their lives and of opportunities to develop their potential.

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, is a key supporter of the African Union Commission in developing the African Youth Charter, the African Youth Decade Plan of Action and the African Union Youth Volunteer initiatives.

Addressing Wednesday’s colloquium, Bunmi Makinwa, UNFPA’s Director for Africa, recalled the high youth unemployment levels, adding that young girls were particularly at risk.

Youth unemployment in Africa ranges from 28 per cent in Nigeria to 50.2 per cent of 15-24-year-olds and 28.5 per cent of 25-34 year-olds in South Africa. An estimated three quarters of the 12 million young people aged 15-24 living with HIV and AIDS are in sub-Saharan Africa, and women and girls remain most vulnerable to infections, according to various studies.

The Malabo Summit comes against the backdrop of the ‘Arab Spring’, sparked in part by massive youth unemployment, rising food prices and poverty levels.

AU Commission President Jean Ping sounded the alarm at the opening of the Foreign Ministers’ meeting on Sunday, saying that youth employment was critical to the continent’s social and economic progress, requiring careful analysis and quick action.

“It is a very alarming situation. We have had demonstrations by university students, but at what point should we determine that these student demonstrations are actually leading to regime change. This is a situation of great concern to us,” he said.

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