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As part of our celebration of the month of May which is Africa Month, we release our fourth issue. The focus of this issue is the African Youth Charter as adopted by the youth of Africa in 2006 in Gambia. The charter was subsequently adopted by the African Union.  The charter could be justifiable referred to as a blue print for the development of Africa’s young people.

  The African Youth Charter declares that “Africa’s greatest resource is its youthful population and that through their active and full participation, Africans can surmount the difficulties that lie ahead [and recognizes that] … youth are partners, assets and a prerequisite for sustainable development and for the peace and prosperity of Africa with a unique contribution to make to the present and to future development”.

The African Youth Charter sets out a coherent and compelling youth development vision and this is aptly represented in its preamble and articles. The preamble amongst others makes the following statements:

  • “Guided by the vision, hopes and aspirations of the African Union, inclusive of Africa’s integration, the inherent dignity and inalienable rights afforded to all members of the human family as set out in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (1976) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1976), and articulated for the African peoples through the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (1986);
  • Recognising the efforts made by States Parties and civil societies to address the economic, social, educational, cultural and spiritual needs of youth;
  • Reaffirming that the continuous cultural development of Africa rests with its youth and therefore requires their active and enlightened participation as espoused in the Cultural Charter for Africa ;
  • Taking into consideration the inter-relatedness of the challenges facing youth and the need for cross-sectoral policies and programmes that attend to the needs of youth in a holistic manner;
  • Considering that the promotion and protection of the rights of youth also implies the performance of duties by youth as by all other actors in society”.

Article 10 of the charter states that “every young person shall have the right to social, economic, political and cultural development with due regard to their freedom and identity and in equal enjoyment of the common heritage of mankind”. This article encapsulates the developmental aspirational ends of the youth of our continent.

In furtherance of the foregoing noble intentions of the African youth, it is perhaps necessary to ponder about and reflect on the road traversed by the continent to realise these goals. 

Progress has been made in placing the youth on the agenda of the continent as exemplified by the decision taken by the African Union in 2017 of ‘Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth’. This presented an unprecedented strategic opportunity to engage in high-level advocacy, policy dialogue and decision-making on key issues that impact young people. Was this opportunity exploited? These kinds of opportunities can only be exploited if we transition from policy to implementation. This requires deliberateness, focused leadership, reflective practice and most importantly, unity of purpose amongst the youth of the continent.

The youth of the continent needs to develop agency aimed at addressing amongst others the following stubborn obstacles that hinder the realisation of the charter with the requisite speed:

  • Structural exclusion of youth through existing configurations of power.
  • Advocacy for alternative development paradigms that place Africa’s youth at the centre.
  • Address the emerging phenomena of youth leaders in the public sphere who use the youth grievance to advance their own interests.
  • Reflect on the meaning of emergent youth identities that are mainly driven by the imperatives of the modern age.
  • Youth protest movements as a means of responding to systematic exclusion.
  • Re-imagine youth organisation and bolster the efficacy of youth organisations established to champion and sustain a coherent youth agenda and explore alternative forms of organising for youth development.

If our African youth both on the continent and diaspora fail to activate themselves as champions of their own development in partnership with Africa’s leadership and development institutions, the ideals of the African Charter will be a dream deferred.

Posted on 20 May 2019 15:17:47

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This platform serves as a reflective, discursive and connecting space between myself and the entire student community of our beloved university. Through this platform, we converse with our students and broader stakeholders on all matters of student life, wellbeing and development at Mandela University.

Dr Bernard Sebake, Acting Dean of Students