Friday, February 3, 2017 was a special day at the African Development Bank. Even before 8 a.m., dozens of young people were gathered at the doors of the Bank’s headquarters in Abidjan. In the crowd, the colours of Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Guinea were visible.
The national teams from Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Guinea were getting ready to face off in the finale. But it wasn’t the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations taking place at the AfDB – it was a totally different regional competition.
This was the finale of the televised competition “Voix des Jeunes” (“Youth Voices”), launched by the Senegal-based civic leadership centre, Social Change Factory. The goal: to form young Africans into agents of change and development, equipped with a social conscience, driven to find solutions to Africa’s challenges. The rules of the game are simple: one development issue was provided to all three teams, who worked, debated and proposed a pragmatic solution. This year, the chosen theme for the teams is one of the Bank’s development priorities: agriculture and youth employment, an issue that cuts across the AfDB’s High 5 priorities. The Bank also launched its Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy in 2016.
Sunita Pitamber, Director of AfDB’s Department for Human and Social Development, and Ginette Nzau-Muteta, Division Manager responsible for the implementation of the Bank’s Jobs for Youth in Africa Strategy, kicked off the event dedicated to promoting African youth. Just a few days earlier, at its 28th Summit in Addis Ababa, the African Union launched the theme for 2017: “Harnessing the demographic dividend through investments for the youth.”
Appearing comfortable on the stage of the AfDB auditorium and dressed for the occasion in “Voix des Jeunes” purple, nine West African students came to defend their ideas: Lareine Affouah Amoakon, Milequem Diarassouba and Mohamed Aly Diabaté were the Côte d’Ivoire champions; Kadidiatou Diallo, Mariama Gueladjo Bah and Ibrahim Barry represented Guinea; while the Senegal team comprised Fatou Diop, Ndiasse Mbaye and Jenson Mahotière.
This regional finale for “Voix des Jeunes”, which plans to extend to over a dozen African countries, ended late in the afternoon. The morning was dedicated to the “All Stars” individual finale, in which the best elements from the West African teams that did not make the finale competed. Another important part of the day was a multimedia exhibit on giant screens in the Bank’s grand hall and the live recording of the RFI French radio programme “7 milliards de voisins” (“7 Billion Neighbours”), led by journalist and radio host Emmanuelle Bastide.
We need to listen to Africa’s youth, since they are the innovators and have the skills necessary for Africa’s future. They have solutions and want Africa to be successful.
So, which of the teams won the finale, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea or Senegal? That will remain a mystery until the broadcast, which will be seen on television in the three countries represented: Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea and Senegal, as well as on two international channels.