AU’s Pan African Youth Forum Launches ‘1 Million by 2021 Initiative’

By Lionel Tarumbwa

With 75% of its population under the age of 35, the African Union has to realise Africa’s demographic dividend may be more important to its future than its natural resources.

The second edition of the African Union’s Pan African Youth Forum is kicking off on Tuesday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The forum will be running under the theme Africa Unite for Youth: Bridging the Gap and Reaching African Youth.

The forum is aimed at leveraging and harnessing on the power of the continent’s growing youth population. It represents a paradigm shift in the AU as it moves towards broader recognition and support of the continent’s youth in order to harness their potential.

The forum brings together over 400 young people from across the continent to co-create solutions on the main problem areas that are hindering the youth from achieving their potential. Development partners, the private sector, institutions of higher learning and the civil societies will also be in attendance as part of the aim to have a broader engagement with all stakeholders.

The chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) Moussa Faki Mahamat will officially launch the 1 million by 2021 Initiative, which targets direct investment in millions of African youth on the four key elements of employment, entrepreneurship, education and engagement (4Es).

Africa is expected to experience a demographic dividend as young people make up the bulk of Africa’s total population, with an estimated 75% of the continent’s population below the age of 35. The demographic dividend has been acknowledged by African leaders and decision-makers as a strategic basis for focusing and prioritising investments. Investments into Africa’s youth will contribute towards sustainable development, inclusive economic growth and to build an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa.

For African countries to capitalize on this demographic dividend, the future workforce must be educated, trained, and have adequate employment and innovation opportunities. Putting all the pieces in place will not be easy.

This will be achieved by building capacity for quality education and skills improvement, health and wellbeing, good governance, human rights and accountability, employment opportunities, leadership skills, empowerment and entrepreneurship. This is the basis for prioritising youth development by the AUC, as evidenced by the 2017 theme of the year: Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth.

In data gathered by the Ibrahim Index of Africa Governance over a decade, there were reflections that African governments are in danger of squandering the continent’s demographic dividend by failing to create enough jobs.

Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese businessman whose foundation produces the index, said, “Our gross domestic product has grown by a considerable amount over the past 10 years, but we haven’t translated that into a sustainable economic opportunity.”

According to a report by Brookings on Increasing Employment Opportunities in Africa’s complex job market, even some of Africa’s largest economies such as Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa struggle with high unemployment. This is a challenge that may persist as more youth begin to enter the workforce if not more investments are made into education and skills creation. The report by Brookings noted that investments into “human capital” more generally will help African countries to fulfil their broader development missions.

The AU Commission launching the 1 million by 2021 Initiative demonstrates a focused commitment on young Africans. The main objective of the initiative is to concretely provide opportunities in the 4Es for millions of African youths by the year 2021.

Source The African Exponent


Kenya: Rastafarianism, promising freedom, spreads among African youth


Dressed in a red turban and black robe, Douglas Okello bowed and gazed at the portrait of the former Ethiopian emperor pinned up in his one-room mud shack in Nairobi’s Kibera slum.

Then he prayed, and smoked a joint.

“I believe in Haile Selassie I, the Ethiopian emperor who will deliver us to the promised land,” said Okello, 28. “This is a calling from Jah, and a true Rastafari must smoke weed to cleanse his soul.”

Rastafarianism, increasingly popular in Kenya, is a faith that started in the Caribbean island of Jamaica in the 1930s after the coronation of Haile Selassie I as king of Ethiopia. Rastafarians regard Haile Selassie as the God of the black race and believe he will one day return all black people living in so-called exile — outside Africa — as the result of migration and the slave trade back to the continent.

Okello, who has been a Rastafarian for five years, said he joined the movement after he developed a liking for reggae music, which grew out of Rastafarian culture in the West Indies, while studying at the University of Nairobi. Reggae musicians singing about how black people were oppressed spoke to him, he said.

Rastafarians don’t cut their hair but grow it, uncombed, into dreadlocks. They smoke marijuana and reject materialist values in favor of a strict oneness with nature. They tend to be vegetarian and eat only unprocessed foods.

“I received a spirit that led me to start growing dreadlocks and learn how to smoke marijuana,” Okello explained. “If you are a true Rastafarian, everything changes and you start to understand the Bible. I don’t consume animals nowadays.”

The faith has grown so much among young people in Kenya, its leaders say, that they have developed social media platforms to address issues affecting the youth. Last year, the group Rastafarian Family Elders estimates, more than 1,000 people shifted from Christianity to Rastafarianism in Nairobi’s Kibera slum alone. The Elders said youths in the country have started realizing the religion favors their interests. (There are no official figures on Rastafarians in Kenya, but estimates put the global figure at 1 million.)

Anthony Maiga, a theologian and pastor for the United Methodist Church of Kenya in Nairobi, said the group traces Haile Selassie’s lineage back to King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and, through King David’s line as described in the New Testament book of Matthew, to Jesus.

But Maiga said the faith has seen rapid growth because many young people see themselves reflected in the language and behavior of Rastafarians.

“Youths love something that does not restrict them, like smoking and abusing drugs, listening to secular music and sharing things instead of working and paying for their own,” said Maiga. “The sect encourages such behavior and obviously they are likely to get more youths.”

Jacob Maina, 35, who also lives in the slum, confirmed that he joined the faith because he was looking for freedom. Born into a Protestant Christian family, he said the faith restricted him: He could not smoke marijuana, question oppressors or listen to his favorite reggae musician, Bob Marley.

“I was actually in prison when I was a Christian,” he said. “Christianity condemns everything that youths enjoy. The Rastafari faith allows youths to live good life. We don’t give offering on Sabbath day and we are allowed to smoke marijuana and listen to reggae music.”

But its adherents here say that many new Rastafarians are attracted by the social justice and anti-colonialist sentiments that drew Okello.

“Youths who are black have been oppressed since the days of colonization,” said Ras Malonza, a Rastafarian leader in Nairobi. “They were made slaves to whites and that’s the reason they found themselves in Jamaica.

“Jamaica is hell to us and Ethiopia is our heaven,” he added. In time, he said, “we will be repatriated to Ethiopia, which is our promised land by Haile Selassie. Black youths will no longer be oppressed and we will live in freedom and peace.”

Malonza, 43, who was once a staunch Catholic, said he regrets the years he wasted not believing in Haile Selassie. As evidence that Rastafarians are the true believers, he quotes the Old Testament book of Jeremiah: “For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black; astonishment hath taken hold on me.”

“We are the only religion that follows the Bible,” said Malonza. “Our God is black and the Bible confirms that.”

Anyway, local leader say, Rastafarianism doesn’t equate to freedom in Kenya’s socially conservative urban milieu. Rastafarians often face discrimination and are viewed as criminals because of their pot smoking and their appearance, especially the dreadlocks, local leaders say.

Recently, a court in Nairobi ordered officials at Olympic High School in Kibera slum to admit a Rastafarian student after she was refused due to her dreadlocks.

“It’s time for people to understand and respect our faith just as we respect other religions,” said Ras Lojuron, a member of the Rastafarian Family Elders.

Meanwhile, Okello hopes society, especially the government, stops its harassment and discrimination against Rastafarians.

“The police should treat us well,” he said. “We are a religion just like Christianity and Islam.”

Source Religion News Service

Meet The Youngest Tech Pioneer in Ethiopia

By Thomas Lewton

Ethiopia, despite nearly 20 years of steady economic growth, still has one of the lowest GDPs per capital in the world. While the majority of the country contributes to its agriculture-based economy, growing sectors of tech-savvy youths are forging a new path.

And Ethiopia isn’t alone. As start-up hubs sprout all across Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Ghana – often backed by A-list investors – a new generation is turning its attention toward innovation. The idea is simple: create local solutions to local problems through tech.

Betelhem Dessie, 19, is one of the youngest tech pioneers in Ethiopia. Over the last three years, in addition to patenting several software programs, she has travelled the country teaching students how to code and conducting innovation workshops. So far, she has reached more than 20,000 young people.

“In developed countries, technology is creating a comfort or a convenience.” she says. “Whereas in Ethiopia it’s creating a necessity.”

Source BBC