The youth of Africa can expect “tangible commitments” from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) currently underway in Nairobi, Kenya. This is according to Raphael Obonyo, Youth Adviser at the United Nations.
The conference has dedicated a Global Youth Forum where 300 youth from across the globe will engage on creating sustainable solutions to unemployment, education and government accountability.
The youth agenda is among the key issues to be deliberated on during the ongoing fourteenth session of the UNCTAD and the hope is that these will impact positively on their lives.
“Africa is the most youthful continent in the world – 200 million out of one billion people in Africa are young people between 15 and 24, that population could even be bigger if we look at the definition of youth which is 15 – 35,” says Raphael Obonyo, Youth Adviser at the United Nations.
Despite this, over 60 per cent of Africa’s youth is unemployed, according to the World Bank.
Obonyo says this conference is important because it will discuss trade and how it can improve economies and spark investment. “We expect commitments that are going to enhance intra-trade and that are going to reduce barriers that prevent people from trading within the continent.”
He says the large population of youth need opportunities, which are not necessarily available and this is compounded by the rate of unemployment on the continent.
Across the globe, the UN found that more than 73 million in the youth bracket are unemployed.
“Seventy per cent of unemployed people are youth and so we need mechanisms, ways of insuring that we create opportunities for these young people,” says Obonyo.
He suggests that this can happen through the promotion of trade and investment at conferences such as the UNCTAD. “The global youth forum is being held for the first time within UNCTAD to ensure that youth voices are integrated in the conversations, but also that the challenges affecting young people are actually addressed.”
He also believes this will allow young people a platform to provide solutions to some of the challenges experienced as a continent and as a globe.
“Youth are very hopeful and we expect that the discussions will not only be discussions about the problems but there will be tangible commitments, and if you look at the theme of this conference – we are talking from decisions to actions not just on trade but on inclusive economies.”
It is important to support young people to access capital and to acquire the necessary skills to engage in the economy as equal members of society, Obonyo concludes.