Statement by Abdoulaye Mar Dieye at the Eighteenth session of the Regional Coordination Mechanism for Africa

Mar 25, 2017

Eighteenth session of the Regional Coordination Mechanism for Africa

First Joint Meeting of RCM-Africa and UNDG

UN system Support to Harnessing Demographic Dividend through investments in the Youth

Dakar, Senegal, 25 March 2017

 

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

I am delighted to be part of this very first Joint Meeting of the Regional Coordination Mechanism (RCM) and the UN Development Group (UNDG) in the Africa Region, which provides a platform for the United Nations and the African Union to dialogue on the continent’s development priorities.

The theme of this year’s debate, “UN System Support to Harnessing Demographic Dividend through investments in Youth”, is certainly timely, as Africa has the youngest population in the world and is determined to an inclusive implementation of the African Union Roadmap on Demographic Dividend.

This is also a moment for the UN System to implement the UN Secretary General’s approach on the “New Way of Working”. A new way that is inspired by the call in the just-adopted Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review (QCPR), for UN operational entities, to work in an integrated, coherent and coordinated fashion, and with all partners, to support the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

We are very fortunate to have the stars fully aligned in the continent. As shown by a recent UNDP study, the three major strategic frameworks, namely the Universal Agenda 2030, AU’s Agenda 2063, and the African Development Bank High 5s, are in full congruence. We have, then, our space clearly defined and delineated to guide us in delivering, policy-wise and programmatically, in an integrated, coherent and coordinated fashion.

It is very fitting to note, that at the very heart of the congruence of these three major strategic frameworks, lies the issue of demographic dynamics. Yes, indeed demographic dynamics, in all their multidimensionality, are the most critical parameters in determining the long-term path of development and its sustainability, as well the state of peace and security. 

The African Union is then to be commended for adopting the African Youth Charter in 2006, declaring 2009-2018 the African Youth Decade, and for devoting the theme of this year, 2017, on the critical issue of “harnessing the demographic dividend through investment in the youth”.

Investing in Youth is not only a Human Rights imperative, but it is also a “sine qua non” for sustainable development, peace and security.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

By the time we conclude our sessions today, hence every 24 hours, nearly 33,000 additional young Africans will be searching for jobs; and sadly, many will be joining the morally unacceptable army of the unemployed! And 60% of that army is now composed of young people. This is a scary ticking time bomb!

This is the reality we are facing. Simply put, this is a denial of Human Rights; this is bad economics; this is a jeopardy to our collective future, and a threat to our present existence!

Our meeting of today is then a much- needed opportunity to build on the high spirit of the AU Roadmap, and to take a bold step beyond the usual rhetoric.  

Indeed, our topic of today is over- studied. It is now time for tectonic action.

It is true, as advocated in classical economic theories, that strong and inclusive economic growth will lift all employment, including youth employment; but this may take time.

Yet, it is equally true that an adequately designed and actively implemented youth investment programme can create a sturdy, stable and inclusive economic growth path. It can drive the continent’s structural economic transformation. This is the way to go.

It takes foresight. It takes will. It takes a sense of urgency. It takes a resolution for pragmatism.

If  60% of our population is composed of youth (less than 25 years of age), and as the youth is one of our greatest assets, then the principle of “Equity”  and the principle of  “Return on Investment”, would call for sizeable public and private resources to be devoted to youth development and investment.

In that spirit, I would like our meeting to consider the following 10 Action Points, which can also be a platform to guide a cohesive UN support to the AU Roadmap:

  1. Governments need to devote a sizeable percentage of their budget to youth programmes.
     
  2. Establish Youth Investment Banks; and Youth Investment Windows in Development Banks, and scale up initiatives such as the AfDB- European Investment Bank joint programme, “Boost Africa”, which supports the creation of innovative and highly scalable start-ups and SMEs.
     
  3. Promote youth entrepreneurship development programmes, combined with skills development, and connecting the young entrepreneurs to funding opportunities, investors, technology and know-how. The National Youth Service Scheme in Nigeria is a good example to highlight.
     
  4. Governments need to provide incentives to private sectors for youth employment, including easing labor market entry.
     
  5. Launch vast “Youth Rural Investment” schemes. The Songhai Initiative in Benin is a successful example to scale up and emulate.
     
  6. Allocate a sizeable proportion of sovereign wealth funds to Youth programmes; in Brazil, for instance, a law was passed to allocate 75% of the royalties in new oil exploration contracts to education.
     
  7. Promote Youth political participation, by securing a minimum percentage of youth in decision-making bodies, including governments and parliaments. A new IPU report has found, that at a time when the global youth population is the largest it has ever been in history, young people continue to be chronically under-represented in decision-making processes; about only 1.5% of African parliamentarians are aged below 30, compared to an already low world average of 2%.  
     
  8. Develop a Youth Entrepreneurship Portal for Africa to connect young innovators and entrepreneurs with mentors, apprenticeship, and funding opportunities. The YouthConnekt programme in Rwanda is a good example to mention. It has been fruitful in terms of connecting young people with peers and role models, skills development, access to finance and entrepreneurship.  Within only 3 years, the YouthConnekt boot camp has resulted in the creation of about 1000 permanent jobs and 2700 temporary jobs.
     
  9. Support the setting up of “Youth markers “in public expenditures; and systematically review public expenditures to see if they are “youth sensitive”.
     
  10. Support the mapping and sharing of good practices in youth investment and youth development programmes, in Africa and outside.

I am convinced that our Dakar Meeting will add more practical ideas on how we can move from rhetoric to action. To harness the demographic dividend and transform youth potential into an engine for development requires that we act with a sense of urgency and constructive pragmatism.

I thank you.

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