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Address By Dr Jean Ping, African Union Commission Chairperson on the occasion of the commemoration of Africa Day

May 26, 2011, 3:23 PM

Allow me first of all to sincerely thank you all for having graced this ceremony with your presence. I wish you a warm welcome.

As is the custom every year, today, the 25th of May 2011, we are celebrating Africa Day. This anniversary commemorates the birth of the Organization of African Unity on May 25 1963. Indeed, by this solemn act, our founding fathers, keen to safeguard and consolidate the independence of our countries, hitherto under the yoke of colonization, and in a bid to strengthen solidarity across Africa and see through the task of the total liberation of Africa, did not only lay the foundation of our unity through a common African identity, but also triggered the dynamics of actions and efforts towards integration and sustainable development that our continent is today pursuing.

Today, about 62? of the overall population of Africa is below 35 years old and more than 20? are between the 15 and 24 years age bracket. By 2020, more than 70 % of Africa’s youth will be at least twenty years old.  This means that out of every four persons that we come across in the streets of Cairo, Nairobi, Brazzaville, Lagos, Malabo or Johannesburg; three are less than twenty.

With an average of 5.2 children per woman, Africa registers the highest number of births in the world, the yearly birth rate being 2.2?. It is therefore not surprising that about 10 million African youth knock at the door of the labour market every year… Many of these youth are ill- prepared for the job market, owing to the persisting gaps in our educational systems. The result is that 71? of African youth live on less than US$2 a day.

The Arab spring marked by the groundswell that swept across Tunisia and Egypt, right here on our continent, has confirmed the imperious need to address the legitimate concerns and worries of the youth who are the largest component of our society.  They are becoming increasingly poor, discontented and more and more radical.

In an era of unbridled globalization characterized amongst other things by new ways of life like the celebrity culture, the loss of the value of hard work in favour of the get rich quick attitude and idleness; many youth in developing countries and not only in Africa mirror their future in what they often consider as the Eldorado, often Europe and the United States. They would stop at nothing to undertake the journey to this illusory promise land even at the peril of their lives; having the feeling that the only prospects at home are disappointments, discouragement, even a feeling of injustice coupled with revolt…

-Disappointment for those who on completing their education struggle to find a job matching their qualifications.

- Discouragement for those without certificates doomed to precarious jobs.

- lastly, the feeling of injustice and revolt for those who are deprived of any hope and feel forgotten, ignored, or rejected by society.

By deciding to focus on the theme “Accelerating Youth Empowerment for a Sustainable Development” and recalling that the 8th   Labour and Social Affairs Commission which held in Yaoundé in April 2011 dwelt on the theme “Promoting Youth Employment for Social Cohesion and Inclusive Growth”, the African Union, attests the importance it attaches to the primordial role and contribution of the youth in the development process. It also confirms the will of African leaders to continue their efforts for the creation of an enabling environment to better address the needs of the youth.   For some years now this has been articulated by numerous activities undertaken across the continent at the centre of the development agenda for the youth, who are indispensable stakeholders in efforts to support Africa’s development.

The adoption in 2006 of the African Youth Charter and its entry into force in 2009, mark the starting point of a new and strong push. As this Charter seeks to promote the participation of youths and their organizations to a wide range of inter-generational dialogue on the development of policies and initiatives designed to ensure that the views and aspirations of young people are considered.

As part of this drive, the celebration of the African Youth Day in 2008, the institutionalization  of  November 1st  as African Youth Day and the Declaration of 2009-2018 as the Decade for Youth Development have given a new impetus to  the Pan African Youth Union whose headquarters is in  Khartoum Sudan.

Heeding to the call of Heads of States and Government, the African Union Commission has embarked on actions, programmes and projects aimed at enhancing the capacities of young people and improving their participation in social, political and economic activities on the continent. I will illustrate this with a few examples, namely:

The creation of the African Union Youth Volunteers Corps. In this respect, I am happy to recall that a Second Training Session for 100 young volunteers is scheduled for 13 June in the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, in  Malabo;

The promotion of technical and vocational training which demonstrates the  importance of the latter in our countries and regions;

The establishment of a database for African youth organisations.

The United Nations has declared August 2010-August 2011 as the International Year of the Youth. I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that a united Africa will be strong and respected. Hence the common position for the development of the African youth presented by all the African youth ministers at the World Youth Conference in Mexico in July 2010 was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2010 and is henceforth part of the 2010 Agenda for the world’s youth.

Africa is resolved to fight and win the battle to enhance its youth’s competitiveness in the international arena. This will lead to the establishment of the Pan African University with its five regional institutes and affiliated national centres that will meet world standards in quality training in research, science and technology as well as engineering and mathematics.  Three of these institutes shall open in the last quarter of 2011. These are:

The Institute of Earth and Life Sciences in Ibadan, Nigeria;

The Institute of Governance, Social Sciences and Humanities in Yaoundé, Cameroon and,

The Institute of Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation in Nairobi, Kenya.

The Pan African University is designed to attract and keep on the continent talented and motivated young people by providing an enabling environment for their blossoming in research and studies. It will also help to rekindle the sense of belonging to Africa, considering the fundamental and proven role of training institutions, schools, and universities in the building of a common African identity.

With regard to Science, the foundation stone of the African Observatory of Science, Technology and Innovation shall be laid in Malabo, during the next African Union Heads of State and Government Summit in July. Equatorial Guinea has offered to host this institution and to provide the start-up funds.  This Observatory shall help to develop the scientific potential of our young researchers. The decision to set up this institution was taken at the January 2007 Summit of Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa.

Your Excellencies,

Dear friends       

We all know that the youth, with their energy, innovative capacity as well as their aspirations are an asset that no State or society can afford to ignore. They are an engine and a critical resource for sustainable development, both at national and continental level.  With their inherent values, the youth are also a catalyst for change and transformation of the society.

Young ladies and gentlemen of Africa,

The African Union believes strongly that the future of Africa hinges on your dynamism, enthusiasm, energy and courage.  You are indeed the leaders and decision-makers of tomorrow.   The foundation of Africa rests on your ideas and actions.  You are the future, the driving force that will contribute to the emergence of a continent where life is pleasant, an Africa that can meet its needs and that is free from fear. Like our founding fathers, who in their prime, fought for ideals such as independence and national sovereignty, I challenge you today to rekindle this passion for our motherland and demonstrate your confidence for Africa and its future!  Africa is counting on you.

I wish you a happy Africa Day,

Long live Africa and long live the youth of Africa!