Chair of Family for Every Child, James Kofi Annan, has been addressing attendees at today’s IDAY event celebrating the Day of the African Youth and Child. His keynote speech explained how African youth can and should be given the chance to participate in Africa’s development:
According the UN statistics1, there are more than 200 million girls and boys in Africa aged between 15 and 24 – a demographic that is larger than anywhere else in the world and that is growing fast. The future is theirs and they deserve to have a place at the table where decisions are being made.
This is why IDAY’s work is of particular interest to me: I believe that active, resilient, dynamic and genuinely responsive youth in Africa can only become a reality when:
- all children have access to education.
- older youth have access to employment. Today, over 60% of Africa’s unemployed are aged between 15 and 242.
- we tackle soaring corruption. Corruption is killing Africa. Our leaders are selling the future of our children by washing away our natural resources, enriching themselves at the expense of the rural poor children whose families queued to vote for them. Corruption is the number one enemy of youth in Africa.
- there is an increase in youth confidence; Our young people simply don’t trust their governments anymore. Young people are not motivated to vote anymore. They are not even motivated to participate in economic life, in civic engagement, in volunteer initiatives and community action.
However, no access to education, no empowerment of youth, and no real social and political engagement can be truly achieved for children and youth, in Africa, or globally, without a strong basis for it all, which is that children grow up in a caring and safe family environment.
We must ensure that governments support families to raise their children in safe, secure and loving environment, so that they can foster a sense of belonging, an understanding of the children’s basic rights and their confidence to voice out their views without fear or distrust. This attitude serves our youth immensely if it is allowed to take root, become an inherent part of their identity as citizens and is fostered to allow them the freedom to contribute to their communities and nations.
I do believe that boys and girls, children and youth, are essential actors of development; that development comes from the forces gathered within each country, within each community, within each family.
I believe that each voice counts. That the future belongs to the children of today. They have the right to shape it as they wish. We all have the duty to make sure they are given the opportunity to participate in Africa’s development.
With the support of strong families around them, who have the means and the capacity to care for them, children and youth of Africa will be able to realize their full potential in a flourishing and prosperous African society.