The future of youth in Africa took centre stage during the presidential round table at the Kusi Ideas Festival in Kigali, Rwanda.
The presidential panel — themed “The Next 60 years in Africa: Looking for a win” — had leaders led by Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, African Union Commission chairman Moussa Faki, and African Union Special Envoy for Infrastructure Raila Odinga discussing the continent’s youth.
In his contribution, the festival’s keynote speaker, President Kagame, challenged African leaders to push for a more open border approach in trying to get a united continent.
Mr Kagame noted that they have had a good start in pushing for reforms within the AU as they seek to secure a future for the continent’s largest population -- the youth.
“The start is good and the foundation is laid. We need to push ourselves to fulfil what we have agreed upon on the reforms so that we can have a good future for Africa’s young people. Much as we are not where we need to be or where we want to be, we need to understand the task and admit that we are up to it,” he said.
“We are so much behind on what we are trying to achieve now. This we should have achieved many years ago. But we will get there because we have the goodwill,” President Kagame said, adding that the young people are at the centre of driving the reform agenda in the continent.
President Tshisekedi said he was keen in creating employment opportunities for his country’s young people.
“This Kusi Ideas Festival reflection is very important for the future of Africa. The young people are the vector of development of my country and the continent as a whole.
We need to evaluate and question ourselves on how we can empower these young people, so that they are able to participate in the development of the continent and make it a winning Africa,” he said.
Mr Odinga challenged countries to empower young people to secure their future.
“Given the requisite education and skills, young people are the core of the continents growth story. We need to empower them with opportunities by creating investment opportunities, access to capital to allow them engage in enterprise development, and also allow private sector to thrive so that it can offer them economic empowerment platforms,” Mr Odinga said.
SETTING THE PACE
In his speech, His Highness the Aga Khan said that the story of Africa’s journey is inspirational, and with compelling evidence that Africa is a continent of opportunity and hope.
“The continent is also poised to provide a new market for goods and services for the world. Imagine the opportunities for employment and investment for Africa?” His Highness the Aga Khan said in a speech read on his behalf by Dr Azim Lakhani, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) Diplomatic Representative.
“Today, we have witnessed a palpable new spirit of confidence in Africa which is a reflection of African people coming together across borders to improve their lives.
I commend President Kagame's leadership and insight for hosting this event and the heads of state here today for their commitment to address the needs and times of the current people,” His Highness The Aga Khan said.
“We have an opportunity and responsibility to assist people and communities to construct strong and resilient foundations and also support the voices of the youth. This can only be accomplished when governments and private sector work together to create an enabling environment where people can plan and create plans.”
Nation Media Group Chairman Wilfred Kiboro reiterated that Kusi Ideas Festival aims to imagine a future for the continent.
“We believe the themes we shall be talking about in this conference actually talk about Africa. We need to talk about open borders, education, immigration, good governance, culture, visionary leadership.
We need to have all these conversations as Africans to champion the future of the continent,” Mr Kiboro said.
Mr Mahamat said Africa needed to push for reforms if it is to guarantee its youth a better future.
“We are seeing poor trade figures on the continent and that’s why it’s important we come together and work for an integral Africa.
That’s why it’s important for us to push for the Free trade area pact by the end of next year,” Mr Mahamat said.
“I’m convinced that the youth will change the context of this continent. We need to radically change the way we act and relate.''