11 August 2011
Ben Duntoy - President of the Pan African Youth Union
Maquento Sebastiao Lopez - Secretary General Pan African Youth Union
Andile Lungisa - Vice President of the Pan African Youth Union
And all members of the Executive Committee
President of the UJ Student Representative Council
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am pleased that I have been invited to address this very important meeting of the African youth under the auspices of the Pan African Youth Union. The idea of solidarity in general and that of Pan African solidarity in particular is synonymous with the history of oppression, and in the African context, with that of colonialism.
One of the important issues of contemporary concern is the proper documentation of the history of the African people. African people have left their footprints, be it in Timbuktu, the Zimbabwe ruins, Mapungubwe or the Egyptian pyramids. These historical landmarks speak of a history that has in many instances been passed from one generation to the other through oral tradition. It is important that as young people, you should leave behind a written and documented legacy of the struggles that we are seized with, as this will help inform future generations about the significance of their own struggles and the choices that they will make. As the ANC centenary draw closer, I will encourage you to learn from this important milestone so that the PYU centenary can also be celebrated by future generations.
The demographics in the African region are clear, young people constitute about a third (30%) of the total population. It is important that we address their issues whilst they are in their youth period before they enter adulthood. Some of the challenges that should be addressed include:
- Education and skills development – this is one of the key indicators for youth development, because there is evidence that education and skills development prepares young people to lead invaluable lives;
- Economic emancipation of Africans and youth in particular – it is documented that on the basis of their age and energy levels, if the youth are equipped with relevant skills and knowledge, they can contribute productively to the country’s economy and development of the region;
- Health – improving the physical and mental health of the youth remains a priority;
- Child-headed households – children and young people heading households due to conditions such as HIV/AIDS should be supported, so that they can continue learning;
- Migration – the migration of young people from rural to urban areas, from African to western countries; should be curbed by making their areas and regions competitive and rewarding.
One of the questions you need to ask yourselves is what become your key tasks as the youth of today. Now, you need to move beyond blaming our erstwhile oppressors and take charge of what becomes Africa’s future. In other words, having located correctly so, that our impediments are informed by the neo-colonial and imperialist interests, consequent to that you need to ask yourselves the question of what then must you do to mitigate against these forces.
Furthermore, we need to create and or strengthen institutions that are responsive to the needs and aspirations of young people. In South Africa, the NYDA which reports directly to the Presidency, recently held a National Youth Convention as a forum to consult and obtain the views of young people on the Draft Integrated Youth Development Strategy. This is a crucial initiative that will give effect to implementation of the National Youth Policy including conceptualization of youth development interventions across different departments in all spheres of government.
During the June/July 2011 AU Heads of States and Government Summit held in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, young people submitted a declaration which emanated from the African Youth Forum and contained in that declaration was the following issues, i.e. that there be ministries in charge of youth affairs in all member states; that youth councils be established in all countries and that the PYU be strengthened.
Since the PYU is now a recognized structure of the AU, it is expected that it will be visible in championing youth development through engaging in key activities such as popularising the African Youth Charter; facilitating implementation of the Decade Plan of Action for the Youth; strengthening the National Youth Councils and facilitating their establishment where they are non-existent and mitigating the effects of climate change. At the same time it will be essential that you ensure mainstreaming of youth development across various sectors so that the youth can ultimately be able to take advantage of emerging opportunities such as being involved in agriculture, infrastructure development, built industry, green economy, etc.
Our focus should move towards utilization of the PYU as an agency of the African Union Commission. There is a need to see PYU being instrumental in implementation of the decade Plan of Action for Youth including ensuring implementation of the African Youth Charter. What is the PYU in its current constitution doing to agitate for this? Do you have a programme of action on how to rollout youth integrated strategies in your national governments? You need to advocate to also be included as part of the peer review mechanism so that youth development issues are measured in full and not be relegated to peripheral activities.
The principles of non-discrimination and equality must permeate every aspect of our political, economic and social development. As you celebrate the International Day of the Youth on Friday, 12 August 2011 and as you approach the end of the UN International Year of the Youth, which commenced on the 1st of August 2010 to the 31st of August 2011, I urge you to work for Pan-African unity. This you can do by engaging in activities such as developing a plan to fast-track establishment of regional organs such as the SADC Youth Union so that your efforts cascade to the youth at grassroots level.
In as much as the AU is a constitutional body with very prudent and progressive laws, you must as African youth demand that these laws be replicated in your respective countries. Elections must be regular without fail, starting with those of your own organization, the PYU.
Some of the questions that you must ask yourselves frankly, is whether or not your own youth organizations are properly structured in line with mass democratic ethos and therefore if indeed you act nationally, continentally and internationally on the basis of their mandate.
Let us therefore be guided by the adage that says tell no lies and claim no easy victories. Your victories will not come as a result of playing permanent victim to imperialism and neocolonialism, but as it will be, by tackling the bull by its horns! The AU declared this decade, 2009 to 2018, the Decade of the Youth, let us march on towards 2018 with the conviction that by the time you get there, you can proudly say you gave it your best shot.
Comrades, Allow me to thank you once more for your kind invitation and I hope you had a fruitful two days’ deliberations that will take you to a brighter future. To the young women of Africa and the world over, my message to you this Women’s Month is inspired by a woman activist, Susan B. Anthony when she said… “There never will be complete equality until women themselves help to make the laws and elect lawmakers.”
Together we can build a better life for all, build better communities and a better African continent. We should at all times remember that we are the future. Therefore we must build our tomorrow today.
I thank you!