By Sunny Lewis
ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire, December 5, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – To ensure a sustainable future, the European Union and the African Union are solidifying their decade-old financial and structural cooperation in order to support young people and women.
At the 5th African Union – European Union Summit in Abidjan last week, leaders from 55 African Union and 28 European Union Member States gathered to coordinate with young people and with each other with the primary message, “Together for Youth, With Youth.”
EU President Jean-Claude Juncker said, “Already today, the majority of African citizens are under 25 years old, and by the middle of this century, one in four people on Earth will be African.”
“But this demographic dividend cannot deliver without smart investments,” said President Juncker. “This is precisely why we are going to put our investments in education, in infrastructure, in peace and security, as well as in good governance – all of which will in turn inspire good business environments and create much needed jobs and growth.”
Ahead of the Summit, young leaders from Africa and Europe gathered at a Youth Summit on October 9-11 in Abidjan, and their work intensified in the context of the AU-EU Youth Plugin-Initiative.
The Youth Plug-In Initiative brings together 18 Europeans and 18 Africans to act as youth ambassadors for the 5th AU EU Summit. The youth ambassadors presented their ideas to improve the futures of Africans and Europeans alike to global leaders at the Summit.
A summary of the youth ambassadors’ views on six key topics – education, job creation, governance, peace and security, environment and climate change, as well as culture and the arts – is presented in the Abidjan Youth Declaration.
On the topic of education, the youth ambassadors had two new ideas to present.
The AU-EU Rural Education Action Program (REAP) is a proposed, multipurpose and incentive-based pilot intercontinental program to facilitate access to and the completion of primary and secondary education for children, particularly in rural areas.
REAP focuses on integrating schools in remote and hard-to-reach zones to attract and retain students, especially girls, in schools. It maps hard-to-reach areas and develops “toolkits” that include equipment and training.
The AU-EU Network of Digital Hubs for Primary and Secondary Education envisions an initiative, implemented through a public-private intercontinental partnership with major IT companies, aimed at promoting digital skills and digital connectivity at the earliest stages of education, to unleash the potential of digital technology in the community through youth education, training and support programs.
On the topic of Environment and Climate Change, the youth ambassadors from Europe and Africa agree. They state, “Every day, we move closer to the environmental apocalypse to the detriment of all of us, particularly marginalized groups. Youth inclusion is key to ensure environmental preservation and address climate change; it is up to our generation to change the course.”
“As is stated in the Abidjan Youth Declaration, youth-led initiatives must be supported to counterbalance existing tendencies and interests that work against the environment. African and European youth share the same concerns about biodiversity, desertification, coastal erosion, and unsustainable resource management. As the first generation to bear the brunt of climate change and environmental disruption, we must urgently work together on common challenges. It is crucial that we find inclusive, fair and sustainable ways to govern natural resources both locally and globally,” the youth ambassadors state in the Abidjan Youth Declaration.
The youth ambassadors presented two new ideas to improve human response to environmental issues.
First, they suggest mobilizing youth to monitor infrastructure development projects, while guaranteeing the efficacy of impact assessments, through a new AU-EU Youth Initiative on Sustainable Infrastructural Development they’re calling GREEN ID.
Second, they would introduce a youth-led project which expands across the EU and the AU the use of transparent mobile direct-payment methods to ecosystem services for biodiversity conservation, natural resource management initiatives and risk compensation.
Also in advance of the Abidjan Summit, the 6th EU-Africa Business Forum took place on November 27, where business leaders, investors, innovative start-ups, and young and female entrepreneurs from both continents developed recommendations on how to improve the business and investment climate.
After taking all this input into consideration, the 83 European and African Heads of State and Government set out their joint commitment to invest in youth for a sustainable future.
They committed to focusing their work on four strategic priorities:
- Mobilizing investments for African structural and sustainable transformation, European leaders presented, and African partners welcomed, the EU’s new External Investment Plan, a €4.1 billion (US$4.8 billion) initiative to draw in €44 billion (US$51.9 billion) of private investments for sustainable development and job creation. Special attention will be paid to enhancing entrepreneurship of women and young people.
The newly launched Sustainable Business for Africa Platform is intended to allow for structured dialogue with the European and African private sector.
- Investing in people through education, science, technology and skills development
Support for inclusive education and vocational training was highlighted. Leaders also agreed to enhance the mobility of students, staff and academics across the African continent, as well as exchange programs between Africa and Europe, such as ERASMUS+, the European Union funding program for education, training, youth and sport.
- Strengthening Resilience, Peace, security and governance
Leaders will step up their work to enhance peace and security on both continents, pledging to strengthen strategic, political and operational cooperation between the African Union and European Union, in close partnership with the United Nations.
Support to ongoing work to fight against terrorism was reiterated, including the Multinational Joint Task Force against Boko Haram, the Joint Force of the G5 Sahel and the African Union Mission in Somalia, to all of which the EU is the biggest financial contributor.
- Managing mobility and migration
European and African leaders reaffirmed their strong political commitment to address the root causes of irregular migration in a spirit of genuine partnership and shared responsibility, and in full respect of international laws and human rights, as well as creating legal pathways for migration.
They stressed the need to improve the conditions of migrants and refugees in Libya, and to provide them with appropriate assistance and to facilitate their voluntary repatriation to their countries of origin, as well as to create solutions for refugees.
Libya is the main gateway for people attempting to reach Europe by sea, with more than 150,000 people making the deadly crossing in each of the past three years.
Fleeing war and poverty, the refugees and migrants – most from Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Zambia, Senegal, Gambia and Sudan – are smuggled into Libya by a network of criminal gangs on the promise of reaching Europe.
Hundreds of African refugees, many of them young people and women, are being bought and sold in “slave markets” across Libya every week, Al Jazeera reported last week, with many of them held for ransom or forced into prostitution and sexual exploitation to pay their captors and smugglers.
To jointly address the situation of migrants and refugees who fall victim to criminal networks, in particular inside Libya, President Juncker, and High Representative/Vice President Federica Mogherini, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat agreed to set up a joint EU-AU-UN Task Force to save and protect lives of migrants and refugees along the routes and in particular inside Libya.
Efforts will be intensified to enhance intra-African mobility and the free movement of persons within Africa.
Featured image: Three young boys in El Sereif, North Darfur, Sudan. Today, more than half of all Africans are under 25 years old. (Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran / UNAMID) Creative commons license via Flickr.