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ECOWAS, AU collaborate to empower West African youths

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By Innocent Odoh                 The Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is partnering with the African Union (AU) on the empowerment of the youth of the continent with a bid to release their creative energies, raise their productivity and turn a vibrant human resource into an African development force.

A statement issued by the media unit of the commission made available to our correspondent on Wednesday said that a three-Day regional consultation meeting on the theme: Harnessing the Democratic Dividend through Investments in Youth began at the ECOWAS Commission, Abuja, Nigeria on the 12th of September 2017.

Declaring the West and Central African cross-regional consultation meeting open, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security Mrs. Halima Ahmed said the platform provides open, collaborative and inclusive space for young people to “critically and objectively reflect on progress made so far, challenges encountered, and prospects for enhancing meaningful youth participation in Africa’s democratization processes”
Coming on the 10th year anniversary of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Good Governance (ACDEG), the meeting is timely with the world’s youth population projected to get as high as one third of the global figures by 2050 and with west, central and east Africa expected to account for much of the rise, the statement said.

Commissioner Ahmed noted that since youth are critical in bringing about social and political transformation, there is need “for deliberate, constructive and strategic efforts to ensure that the size of our youth population in ECOWAS Member States is depicted as a ‘democratic dividend’ carrying hopes for future growth and development in the region.”

She also stressed the importance of partnering with the ubiquitous private sector in order to advance the cause of the youth.

The acting Head of the AU’s African Governance Architecture (AGA) Ambassador Salah Ahmed stressed that Africa cannot be a better place for its people unless the youth take up the gauntlet to become the genuine leaders of tomorrow. “We must find a way to eradicate the negative definition of youth. We recognize that youths are key stakeholders in the drive to create a healthy continent” he added.

The AGA had launched its Youth Engagement Strategy (YES) as framework for instruction of youth in realization of, and among other facts, that 60 percent of Africa’s population is made up of young people.

Urging participants to take a critical look at the normative frameworks on youth participation to be presented, knowledge sharing as well as insight to meaningful peer review with the requisite networking, he noted: “the ideas shared today will also be shared within our member states”

The Regional Director of National Democratic Institute (NDI) Mr. Keith Jennings, stressed the imperativeness of the meeting for educating the youth on electoral procedures. He disclosed that over the next two years, there will be over 30 elections within the African region, the statement added.

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