The YouthConnekt Summit takes place annually in Kigali, Rwanda. Photo: UNDP

 

YouthConnekt Africa Summit 2018

"Connekting Youth for Continental Transformation"

Keynote Address by Ahunna Eziakonwa

UNDP Assistant Administrator and Regional Director for Africa

 

[As prepared for delivery]

Your Excellency Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda,

Honourable Ministers of Government from Rwanda and the continent,

Distinguished invited guests,

Excellencies,

Dear Youth Delegates

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to be in the land of the thousand hills and to deliver the keynote address at this year’s YouthConnekt Summit! As I look at the countless YouthConnekt participants and delegates in this room, I am motivated!

THIS IS AFRICA… the energy, the creativity, the resources—the awe-inspiring beauty of our land, our oceans, lakes, and mountains, our exotic wildlife; above all, I am in awe of our continent’s rich diversity, beauty, energy and the talent of our youth! This is Africa! You, dear youth delegates, are the force to transform our continent! Through your ingenuity, Africa is on the move!

At this juncture, I thank President Kagame for his visionary leadership in harnessing and cultivating Africa’s new generation of innovators and entrepreneurs to drive Africa’s transformation!  Mr. President, I would also like to express our profound gratitude to you, the government, and people of Rwanda for hosting this YouthConnekt Africa Summit.  This year, we restate our collective determination to respond to the call-to-action by our Youth to give them the space and trust so that they may exercise their creativity and become engaged leaders and agents of change in our Africa. This is how we will build a brighter present and future for our continent!

Mr. President, distinguished guests and delegates, Ladies and gentlemen,

I was informed [by my team] that last year’s Summit produced two key outcomes—first, the Kigali Doctrine, which compels us to address the issue of youth unemployment with a sense of speed and urgency, and with the imperative of practicality and results; and second, an Imihigo, a performance contract, amongst ourselves to roll out a movement at continental level that will lead to an exodus of our youth,  realizing their full potential, here on the African continent and transforming the continent.

In the spirit of the Imihigo, I stand here today, to report to you that UNDP delivered on its commitment made last year by my predecessor, Mr. Abdoulaye Mar Dieye. In partnership with the dynamic Minister of Youth Ms. Rosemary Mbabazi and her team, UNDP and UN Volunteers provided technical expertise and financial support to establish the YouthConnekt Africa Hub, which we will launch this afternoon. UNDP also supported the scaling up of YouthConnekt in Rwanda and in Africa and tremendous results have been achieved—eight countries, Cabo Verde, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Uganda, and Zambia have developed YouthConnekt programmes and 16 more are ready to join this transformative movement.

The sky is the limit! When the continent’s leaders engage with and co-create policies, strategies, and opportunities with the continent’s youth, the impossible becomes possible! Together, we can and must continue to build hope to keep Africa rising so that our youth, the continent’s future, can fulfil their lives for themselves, their communities, their countries, and our continent! Young African people should and deserve the right to live their dreams in Africa instead of dying in the desert and in the ocean. To make this a reality, we need young people in the spaces and dialogues to contribute to designing and implementing policies and strategies that allow youth creativity and entrepreneurship to thrive and promote Africa’s transformation. Our collective support can help to unleash their entrepreneurial spirit, so that we can all reap the fruits of this land of opportunity called Africa.

Mr. President, Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen,

Africa’s Working Age population, which grew from 443 million in 2000 to about 630 million currently, is projected to reach 1 billion by 2040, making it the largest in the world, surpassing both China and India. This is Africa’s potential! This potential is Africa’s source of the new innovative ideas and energy we need to power our continent’s transformation. Yet, every 24 hours, nearly 33,000 youth across Africa join the search for employment; and sadly, about 60% will be joining the unacceptable army of the unemployed. We need to invest in our youth and co-create, with them, their space to realize their potential and create their own opportunities. Together, we can build a conducive environment, help young men and women to acquire the right mindsets, and skills. Then, our youth will be better equipped to unlock all the opportunities, use their creativity and innovation to create with the private sector, millions of jobs and transform our continent.

In Rwanda, YouthConnekt has spurred the creation of 6,000 jobs for youth, more than 4 million young men and women have been engaged in positive values programmes through physical and digital platforms, more than 18,000 youth have been directly engaged in national policy dialogues and more than 1 million youth have been involved in civic engagement activities within their communities.  This is powerful… and it is just the beginning.

YouthConnekt is a practical, concrete and most effective way to tackle the current unemployment situation in the continent. It empowers the Youth to be potent actors and driving vectors in the implementation of Agenda 2030 and of the Future We Want in Africa!  With YouthConnekt Africa, the continent has a proper framework to invest in and empower youth nationally; challenge businesses to provide young people with skills and opportunities; and transform the continent.

Beyond Africa, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, launched the Youth 2030: The United Nations Youth Strategy to engage with, but especially to empower young people. Through the UN strategy, we commit to getting it right by working with youth in understanding their needs, in helping to put their ideas into action, in ensuring their views inform our processes. We also pledge to working with our partners to do likewise and spur new partnerships including to: (i) open new avenues to involve young people and amplify their voices; (ii) strengthen the UN’s focus on youth accessing education and health services; (iii) place their economic empowerment at the fore of development strategies, with a focus on training and jobs; (iv) work to ensure their rights, and civic and political engagement; and (v) Prioritize support for young people in conflict and in humanitarian crises, including their participation in peace processes.

I look forward to working in partnership with the African Ambassadors in New York, private sector, and Philanthropist organizations to bring YouthConnekt, the engine of Africa’s transformation, to the world.

In conclusion, you can count on UNDP, you can count on the UN, you can count on me personally, you can count on our champion, President Kagame, Chair of the African Union.

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