Africa: Youthconnekt 2021 - Youth Urged to Take Lead in Africa's Transformation

21 October 2021

Africa is wealthy in many aspects but its most significant position is its young generation, Rwanda's Minister of Youth and Culture, Rosemary Mbabazi, has said.

Mbabazi was speaking on behalf of President Paul Kagame at the opening of the YouthConnekt Africa summit - the biggest platform that seeks to connect the continent's youth for socio-economic transformation.

The event, now in its fourth edition is hosted in Accra, Ghana, where 2,000 out of 17,000 participants have physically convened. The rest joined from across the world via virtual platforms.

"African youth are full of potential, energy, skills, talents, and are well-positioned to take the lead of this continent's transformation," Mbabazi pointed out. "Your generation builds on incredible strikes that the continent has made over the last couple of decades."

Rwandan delegation at YouthConnekt Africa summit 2021 that is happening in Accra. / Courtesy

This year's event is conducted under the theme, "Africa Beyond Aid: Positioning the youth for post-Covid Economic and Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTFA) opportunities."

This is the first time the annual gathering - which connects African youth with policy influencers, political leaders, public and private development sector institutions- is taking place outside Kigali. The last edition took place in 2019 before it was suspended in 2020 owing to the Covid-19 restrictions.

Mbabazi urged the youth to leverage on regional integration gains made over the past couple of decades.

Regional integration, she said, is stronger today more than ever.

"And the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement (AfCFTA) is at the pinnacle of our accomplishments because its implementation will reveal the true force that Africa is and has which is youth," she said.

The realisation of 'One Africa' aspired through this agreement, she added, will only be achieved when young people unlock this potential as a generation that is more educated, empowered and connected than the previous generations.

A delegation of 30 Rwandan business executives are participating in the summit and are expected to be exposed to business practices and opportunities in Ghana.

The AfCFTA, which is so far ratified by 40 countries, aims at creating the largest free-trade area in the world by reducing all trade costs - eliminating 90 per cent of tariffs - and enabling Africa to integrate further into global supply chains.

However, current custom procedures continue to be a hindrance for countries to benefit from the assistance the AfCFTA can bring in Covid-19 recovery.

In addition to the AfCFTA, the youth can leverage regional economic blocs such as the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) as well as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

We have the capacity

Patrice Mutsepe, the Confederation of African Football told the youth that; "We have the capacity as Africa." "And the AfCFTA is a critical part of our potential to try and work together, to do business together because our growth for both the youth and respective economies depends on trade amongst ourselves."

While donation and aid could be welcome, Mutsepe reckoned that there is no country in the world, yet again no continent that has succeeded based on the vice.

Unemployment among the youth is alarming

Meanwhile, Ghana's vice president Mahamudu Bawumia said that the youth accounts for 60 per cent of all of Africa's unemployed people.

In addition, he said, for those that manage to find work, they do not do so in a place that pays a good wage or develops their skills or even provides a measure of job security.

"No one needs to tell us that mass unemployment in Africa, especially among the youth is a ticking time-bomb."

For Bawumia, the lack of employment opportunities can undermine social cohesion and political stability.

YouthConnekt was initiated by President Kagame, the summit has grown to a network of 24 African countries.

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