Op-Ed: How African youth can help find solutions to meet SDGs

PUBLISHED: Tue, 15 Aug 2017 15:32:25 GMT

By Mary-Jean Nleya*

Africa is considered the youngest continent. In 2016, the World Economic Forum indicated that the “world’s 10 youngest populations are all in Africa”. This youth bulge on the African continent should be harnessed positively to avoid a Malthusian disaster, given that food and agricultural production on the African continent is yet to be maximized.

According to the World Bank the youthfulness of the African continent could potentially yield an 11 to 15 percent growth in GDP in the African continent between 2011 – 2030.

The UN recognises the importance of youth participation

The United Nations (UN) has in past years recognised the importance of youth in both the social and economic development of their countries. In 1984, the General Assembly of the UN adopted Resolution 39/22 . It was decided to dedicate the year 1985 to young people by naming it ‘International Youth Year’. This was in recognition of the significance direct participation of youth would have on the “future of mankind”.

Yet, there was little action to back that ‘recognition’ of the capacity of youth. It is only in recent years that active strides have been made to support and empower youth to be change-makers in their respective countries and in the world.

In 1996 Resolution 50/81 titled ‘World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond’ was adopted by the General Assembly of the UN. This resolution recognised that “young people in all countries are both a major human resource for development and key agents of social change, economic development and technological innovation”, the resolution also acknowledged that young people aspire to be active participants in the shaping of their societies.

Opportunities and enabling environments for youth

Again in 2008, Resolution 62/126 was adopted to support youth and one of the proposals of action was for governments to provide opportunities for the youth, and create enabling environments whereby young people will be able to enjoy the prospect of employability and skills development.

This particular resolution highlighted the fact that young people in developing countries should especially be provided with greater protections and opportunities because some of them were trapped in poverty and “remain marginalized from the global economy and lack the capabilities to access the opportunities that globalization has to offer”.

Youth & scalable solutions to the SDGs

These UN Resolutions, spanning different years, have significantly shone a light on the importance of youth participation in global affairs and the importance for such youth to be empowered and supported.

Now, Unleash Lab 2017 has taken it a step further to provide a testing ground in the form of a ‘lab’ for bright young people from all over the world to test their own ideas in Denmark from 12 to 23 August 2017 – in an effort to stimulate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The selected young people, attending and participating in the Unleash Lab 2017, are referred to as SDG Talents. They include entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, academics, media practitioners and others. The young SDG Talents will work on various tasks in different sectors or themes such as access to clean water, food production and preservation, access to clean energy and renewable energy, sustainable production and consumption, access to education and ICT, urban sustainability and urban planning, health and medical supply chains.

Unleash Lab 2017, has been dubbed an Event for the Sustainable Development Goals. This entire programme will culminate into The Unleash Awards Show where scalable SDG solutions tailored by the SDG Talents will be presented before various thought leaders and experts.

The World Economic Forum in Davos came and went; The G20 Summit in Hamburg came and went; now it is time for UNLEASH Lab 2017 in Denmark to make its mark – the UN’s past resolutions on youth participation is put into action this August in Denmark. Let’s wait and see what scalable solutions to the SDGs the young talents will come up with – this is harnessing the capabilities of the youth in the future of mankind.

*Mary-Jean Nleya is the founder and editor of The Global Communiqué . She has been selected as an SDG Talent to attend the UNLEASH Lab 2017 in Denmark. 

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