It is now 42-years since the memorable day of the Soweto Uprising. Fast forward to 2018, June 16 is annually commemorated as Youth Day in South Africa to recognise the courageous action of these youths, and also remember the souls of those who died in the uprising and the families who carry the direct impact of their loss. What was a day of sorrow, shame and dehumanisation for the nation of South Africa has now been transformed into a celebration of the triumphant and brave South African youth who put their lives on the line to seek justice and register victory that has changed the nation forever.
NEPAD Agency joins South Africa in commemorating Youth Day and embraces the influence inherent in African youth as conduits of democratic, social and economic change. The African Union and its leadership recognise the important role performed by youth in our society that in 2017 the theme for the year focussed on youth – Harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in youth.
Africa has the youngest population in the world, and it continues to grow with estimates indicating that by 2055 the youth population (age 15–24) will double on the continent. We take this opportunity on the occasion of Youth Day in South Africa to emphasise the message of youth inclusion by urging countries across Africa to invest in young men and women and safeguard their human rights, peace and well-being as they are the future leaders of our continent.
It is time to purposefully develop and implement policies that inculcate inclusionist ideas favouring African youth in all spheres of the continent’s development agenda. Success in eliminating diseases that disproportionately affect the continent, ending poverty and achieving zero hunger, as well as repositioning Africa as a frontrunner in the potential of the 4th industrial revolution and emerging technologies relies heavily on how African youth policies are implemented and prioritised.
African youth of today must be given the platforms and opportunities to participate in the development agenda of the continent and shape The Africa We Want. Youth are the real drivers of Agenda 2063 who will live to witness its fruition. The AU recognises youth as key agents for social change, economic growth and sustainable development in all areas of African Society. The courageous South African youth of 1976 altered the course of history for their nation, and many others do the same in their locales across Africa today, albeit in different ways, the core of these efforts is to establish a better future for the continent.
To all the African youths today, we encourage you to get involved and bring your contribution to shape our continent together. As Nelson Mandela said, “To the youth of today, I also have a wish to make: be the scriptwriters of your destiny and feature yourselves as stars that showed the way towards a brighter future.”