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Message of the chairperson of the African Union Commission, Jean PING On African Youth Day

Dec 17, 2009, 1:38 PM | Article By: Nfamara Jawneh

The year 2009 has been a very remarkable year for young people in Africa. Firstly, the heads of state and government at their 12th ordinary summit in Addis Ababa declared the years 2009-2018 as the decade for youth development in Africa. Secondly, the African Youth Charter entered into force on August 8, 2009. Both the declaration of the decade and the entry into force of the Charter demonstrate the political will of the member states to youth issues and provide the enabling legal and policy environment to invest in the right programmes for the empowerment of the youth.

The theme of this year's celebration is "Productive youth for stability and economic development." The focus of this year's observance is based on three premises. I). the world is facing an economic and financial crisis which has adverse implications Africa; ii). Africa is currently experiencing a youth bulge which presents both an economic challenge and opportunity for growth and sustainable development; iii). Africa needs to find its own development path for its own prosperous future.

The biggest challenges of the youth stem from poverty, lack of strong education systems and few jobs. These challenges reflect the broad challenges of the continent - limited investment and inability of small and medium scale business to obtain credit. These challenges must be courageously addressed. As the population of the young people in the continent continues to grow, proactive strategies must be put in place to enable them contribute meaningfully to economic growth. A huge population of young people provides a veritable, energetic and strong work force that is capable of contributing meaningfully to the needed development of critical infrastructure and industrial growth. This is especially true for post conflict countries.

It is imperative that within the context of the decade for youth development in Africa, various policies are pursued to address youth productivity, employment, skills development training, entrepreneurship education, ICTs and educational development. It is also imperative to take into account the broad challenges like HIV/AIDS, globalization and climate change, which have the potentials to erode any progress made in the area of youth development.

Commemorating the event of the African Youth Day is an appropriate way to reflect on how Africa has fared within the context of the global financial crisis, keeping in mind how the opportunities of a youthful Africa can be used for the ultimate benefit and development of the continent; and work out programmes and strategies that would contribute to achieving goals and policy priorities set out in the African Youth Charter. There can be no better way to achieve these goals than a clear political commitment to the development process that will take the continent to sustainable growth and economic stability.

Nothing sustainable can be achieved for the future if the young people don't own it and take an active part in it. The African Youth Initiative and Creativity award has been a veritable tool to enable young people to engage the policy making process and express their views on development. On this African Youth Day therefore, I launch the African Youth Initiative and Creativity award for 2010 and encourage young Africans to participate in this continental contest which bring precious values for youth and economic development in Africa.

On this African Youth Day, I enjoin young Africans to embrace the spirit of hard work, patriotism and commitment to development.

I thank you,

Long live to the African Youth

Long live to the African Youth Charter

And God bless Africa!