African Youth Commission – Conference Report

Annual General Assembly of the African Youth Commission
Theme: ‘Promoting Youth Activism for Appropriate Channeling of Investments in Youth’.
23-25 January 2017, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Youth Leaders from over 20 African Countries gathered in Addis Ababa to convene the inaugural Annual General Assembly of the African Youth Commission (AYC). The theme set forth was ‘Promoting Youth Activism for Appropriate Channeling of Investments in Youth’, with the keynote address on this topic designated to Hon. Minister Patrick Zhuwao the Minister for Youth, Indigenisation & Economic Empowerment in Zimbabwe. The majority of delegates present at the Assembly were candidates aspiring for leadership of the Commission, while several observers from select government institutions and civil society organisations were also seen in attendance. Ignite The Youth attended the event as one of the observing entities with two representatives to fulfil this observatory role.

In the Opening Statement of the General Assembly, Ibraheem Bukunle Sanusi (Advisory Board Member of the Commission) introduced the AYC in the context of the African Youth Charter and underlined how the founding of the Commission was hinged upon the articulations of this charter. He went on to assert that the primary duty and mandate of the AYC would be the implementation of the charter. In what was a heartfelt speech, Mr. Sanusi decried the lack of recognition or support lent to youth initiatives that repeatedly attempted to partner with the African Union or its official youth body (the Pan-African Youth Union). These sentiments were largely agreed with by the majority of participants interviewed throughout the event and questions arose as to whether public commitments to youth “engagement” and “empowerment” were empty declarations.

Hon. Patrick Zhuwao
(Photo Credit: The Sunday Mail)
The Guest of Honour, who also gave the keynote address, Hon. Minister Patrick Zhuwao contributed highly on the discussion of the theme and engaged with congregants for more than 8 hours overall throughout the conference. Hon. Zhuwao made a presentation which featured Zimbabwe’s current structural orientation towards youth. A second presentation was made which focused on the strategies his ministry had employed to “Harness the youth dividend in Zimbabwe” and reflected celebrated projects targeting economic empowerment for the youth in the country. In his Panel Discussions, the Minister urged for the African Youth Commission to “take charge of the Youth Space” that was being hijacked by non-African initiatives (such as Young African Leadership Initiative or the Mandela Washington Fellowship).  In his final remarks. Hon. Zhuwao urged the AYC to serve as the representative of African Youth to African governments, a role which requires the commission to initiate formal cooperation with National Youth Councils and Associations across the continent.

ITY Representatives: Gerald Lawrence Witherspoon & Philani Hlophe Dhlamini