6 December 2017

Africa: Minister Faith Muthambi - Opening of the African Union Commission 6th High-Level Dialogue On Enhancing Youth Participation and Representation in Governance in Africa

press release

Opening Remarks by Honourable Minister Faith Muthambi during the opening of the AUC Sixth High-Level Dialogue at the Capital Hotel, Menlyn Pretoria

His Excellency, John Dramani Mahama, former President of the Republic of Ghana;

The Director for Political Affairs at the African Union Commission, Dr. Khabele Matlosa;

Dean of the Diplomatic Corp in the Republic of South Africa;

Her Excellency, Minata Samate Cessouma, the AUC Commissioner for Political Affairs;

Distinguished delegates;

Ladies and gentlemen;

Good afternoon;

Early Post-Independence Africa often faced many political, economic and social challenges. These included systematic coups, severe droughts, man-made famine, inter-tribal and ethnic conflict, genocide, poverty, unmanageable levels of unemployment, deteriorating infrastructure, hyper- inflation, double-digit chronic balance-of-payments and budget deficits, de-industrialisation, heavy external indebtedness, weak growth, and general economic stagnation.

However, although it should be acknowledged that Africa as a continent, like other regions of the world, has and is faced by some deep seated and chronic political, social, economic and institutional challenges, to characterise these as intrinsic and unique is disingenuous, misleading and intellectually lethargic because the continent is replete with tangible progress and achievements towards improving the quality of life for the continents citizens.

When the Berlin world collapsed almost twenty eight years ago, many imagined a new world order characterised by peace, stability, inclusive growth and prosperity. Some even spoke of the "End of History", whilst others proclaimed the virtues of globalised capitalism as a panacea of all of the world's problems.

Unfortunately, decades since the end of the cold war, this optimism has turned into some form of disappointment.

The world today, Africa included, faces serious challenges of poverty, unemployment, inequality and terrorism.

Distinguished Guests;

As a response to some of these challenges facing humanity, we have recently witnessed gruesome scenes of our young, talented, ambitious and resilient youth from the continent dying trying to cross the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean Sea. This is an indictment on all of us.

We must say, unequivocally, that our youth is our most precious asset and that the future of our youth does not belong in the belly of the Mediterranean but it is right here, in a prosperous Africa where they can play their rightful role as the custodians of a brighter future! Our young people are our greatest asset!

Some estimates put the African population around one billion people. It is said that of this billion, 65 percent are under the age of 35. Indeed Africa is a young continent! However, the questions arises, what are we doing as a collective in order to ensure that we create an enabling environment that will enable our young people to prosper and build a sustainable future?

In answering this question, we should bear in mind the grim words of the American writer Alvin Toffler, who said, and I quote:

"The secret message communicated to most young people today by the society around them is that they are not needed, that the society will run itself quite nicely until they - at some distant point in the future - will take over the reigns. Yet the fact is that the society is not running itself nicely... because the rest of us need all the energy, brains, imagination and talent that young people can bring to bear down on our difficulties. For society to attempt to solve its desperate problems without the full participation of even very young people is imbecile."

Fortunately, for us as a continent, the warning that we should harness the potential of our youth as partners for our future, have guided our continents collective leadership as they developed a response to the challenges facing our youth in the twenty first century. This response is in the form of Africa's blueprint for sustainable development, the African Unions Agenda 2063.

Ladies and gentlemen;

Agenda 2063 envisions "an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena". The realisation that the citizens should be at the centre of development consequently implies that we should place our young people at the core of all that governments do in order to improve the destiny of our continent.

The imperative to achieve Agenda 2063, especially Aspiration 3 which states that "good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law" are critical enablers and drivers of integration, prosperity and development of Africa.

This means that we should promote and ensure the inclusive but meaningful participation of young people in the programmes of the Union that seek to enhance good governance such as NEPAD and the African Peer Review Mechanism.

This is more critical since the year 2017 marks tenth anniversary of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG) since its adoption on 30 January 2007. Promoting an inclusive polity ensures that our young people's often positive energy is utilised for social transformation and development for the benefit of the common good.

Therefore, Youth participation begins with consolidating and promoting governance and the rule of law. Our democratic processes should endeavour to ensure that young people have a voice in the institutions of governance such as parliament. This is important because there can be no meaningful participation without representation.

Representation is more important today when we are often told that the world collectively faces the challenge of a declining trust between governments and citizens. This trust deficit does not augur well for our attempts at a collective and sustainable future.

Programme Director;

In order for us to work towards the realisation of the vision contained in Agenda 2063, our governments should ensure that we take concrete measures that will benefit the youth of our continent such as promoting the ratification of the 2006 Youth Charter.

So far it is encouraging to note that there are current 38 out of 55 AU Member States who have done so.

We further need to take the adoption of legislations that provide for youth quotas in national policies; national youth policies that provide for mainstreaming youth in all spheres of life; as well as establishment of institutions such as the National Youth Councils, youth ministries and youth agencies.

Distinguished Guests;

As a country. South Africa remains committed in ensuring that we mainstream youth participation in all spheres of life in our country. Our National Development Plan recognises that, like other countries in the continent, South Africa demographics are characterised by a large youth and working-age population. This is why we have ensured that the youth remains our key stakeholders in realising the dream of Vision 2030.

The theme of this High-Level Dialogue, on "Enhancing Youth Participation and Representation in Governance in Africa" is relevant and comes at a time where we should all reflect on how far have we gone in ensuring that our young people participate actively in political governance, have access to basic amenities and services, live in peace and security, and are at the epicentre of digital, green and blue economies across our continent.

As we do so, let us not forget that the effects of marginalisation and patriarchal discrimination affects the girl child differently from the boy child. Therefore, as we move towards advocating for youth participation, we must do so bearing in mind both strictures and structures of society in order to ensure that gender parity is achieved.

On behalf of His Excellency, President Jacob Zuma, let me take this opportunity to welcome you to our beautiful city of Tshwane (Pretoria), and hope that you will make time for sightseeing and enjoying all the amenities at your disposal.

Let me close by quoting the words of Sir Herbert Read, and I quote,

"Great changes in the destiny of mankind can be effected only in the minds of little children."

With these few remarks, I wish you fruitful deliberations and assure our youth that this continents leadership cares about their future and that they are key partners in the movement of our continent towards a brighter future.

I THANK YOU!

Issued by: Department of Public Service and Administration

South Africa

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