Dakar — The 18th session of the Regional Coordination Mechanism for Africa (RCM-Africa) ended on 25 March 2017 in Dakar, with calls for stakeholders, including African governments, the UN, AU and African youths to create enabling environments for youth empowerment.
Addressing the session, ECA's Acting Executive Secretary, Abdalla Hamdok, said investing in youth is a necessary and urgent step to sustainably speed up Africa's economic growth. He emphasized the need for the adoption and implementation of policies that encourage youth to be creative, entrepreneurial, and take leadership roles - among other things - at continental, sub regional and national levels.
Mr. Hamdok cautioned that, "Africa's youth population is a huge opportunity but could also be a ticking bomb if not well propelled."
Migration, unemployment, governance and political participation were amongst the issues discussed as challenges faced by African youth.
Commenting on the subject of youth and governance, Abdolaye Mar Dieye, Director of UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa, said it was deplorable that, "less than 1.5% of MPs in Africa are under the age of 30."
The lack of enough youth in positions of leadership was also deplored by UN Resident Coordinator for Ethiopia, Ahunna Eziakonwa Onochie.
"Even at the UN our practice does not fit what we are preaching. How many UN directors are below the age of 35?"
For his part, Okey Onyejekwe - Special Adviser for Nigeria's Ministry of Mines and Steel Development - said, "Political parties need to change their internal rules to allow for youth to emerge as candidates." This, he added, will allow for youths to push the youth agenda instead of having others do it on their behalf.
The 18th session of RCM-Africa took place under the theme, "UN System Support to Harnessing Demographic Dividend Through Investments in the Youth." The session provided opportunity for some young Africans to express themselves as panelists.
Angela Gichaga, a Kenyan youth and Commissioner for Gender, Rural Economy and Agriculture at the Africa Youth Commission, expressed happiness that RCM-Africa has involved youth in policy dialogue and planning for youth-focused initiatives. Ms. Gichaga said her hope is to see such initiative grow.
"We as youth in Africa look forward to partnering in the planning, implementing and monitoring of youth led or youth focused initiatives."
Alvin Odinukwe, a Nigerian youth and member of the African Union Youth Volunteer Corps called on fellow youth to "wake up and start doing something for themselves and for the continent because waiting on others might take forever."
ECA's principal adviser, Joseph Atta-Mensah, who moderated the session, said the decision to involve youth in the discussions was something he was proud of.
"It delights me to see how brilliant and confident these young people are. They are the future and their active participation in such gathering is crucial to move the youth agenda forward."
In a statement read on her behalf at the closing session, Amina Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General, indicated that empowering Africa's youth is vital to unleashing the full potential of the continent and to achieve structural economic
RCM-Africa has been playing a major role in strengthening the partnership between the UN and the AU.