In September 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Even though the media reports often on these SDGs, most young people aged 18-35 across Africa aren’t aware of these goals, yet these young people constitute over 70% of the continent’s total population.
Simply stated, the Sustainable Development Goals are a call for action by all countries – poor, rich and middle-income – to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. When you look at Africa’s actual performance in the last few years, you find that Africa continues to drag behind most of the world in socioeconomic development, despite the sustainable development rhetoric that provides useful sound bites for many heads of state and government officials at high level functions.
The reality is, Africa is still the home of over half of the world’s poor, and one African out of three remains vulnerable to food insecurity. Nonetheless, the 2030 Agenda remains the clearest expression of humanity’s highest aspirations. These SDGs are also the main mission behind our new TRUE Africa University online learning platform for young Africans. The Decade of Action is now fully under way, creating a unique window of opportunity for humanity – and Africa – to change the narrative and to make these SDGs a reality.
That is why I recently accepted an invitation from the United Nations Economic Commission on Africa, when they asked me to moderate a conference on youth in the decade of action. The overarching question driving the conference is: are African youth actors or bystanders? While preparing the upcoming conference, which is taking place on December 20th and will be headed by the Cameroonian economist Vera Songwe, who also happens to be a former World Bank executive as well as the United Nations Under-Secretary-General and the serving Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, we agreed with the organizers and panelists that the active participation of Africa’s young people during the Decade of Action is particularly important.
First, young people are those most affected by these SDGs: they stand to gain the most from high-quality education, the kind of education we are providing with TRUE Africa University, decent work, gender equality and a healthy planet – or to lose the most if the world fails to reach those Goals. And second, young people possess an exceptional combination of energy, ideals, ideas, and initiative that is indispensable for achieving the Goals.
The Economic Commission for Africa recognizes the decisive role that young Africans are called upon to play during this Decade of Action and wishes to engage them in a conversation on the SDGs. The main objective of the conference is to serve as a platform for young Africans – from Africa and also the diaspora – to engage with their leaders to renew their commitment to the 2030 Agenda and to advocate for urgency, ambition and action to realize the Sustainable Development Goals.
The conference, presented as a virtual event, will take place this coming Monday, December 20th, 2021, 12.00–13.30 UTC / 15.00–16.30 EAT. You can watch it live on Facebook and YouTube @ECA_Official