Whoever is elected by the AU Heads of States needs to know that there is no future for Africa without adequate investment in its youth.
Time is up for African Union Commission (AUC) Chair Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who said she would not run again. Her term, which was entrusted to her by the African Union Heads of States in 2012, ends July 2016.
We remember how tedious her election process was for Yayi Boni, former President of the Republic of Benin After so much back and forth, the AU Commission got its first ever chairwoman, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who replaced Jean Ping.
In February 2013, I met H.E. Dr. Zuma when she paid a surprise visit to the Youth Division of the AU Commission to inquire about its service and their proposal and/or suggestions to advance youth initiatives. Imagine my shock when I heard that she was the first chairperson to show interest in youth service, wow.
This month, the African political sphere is actively in search of the next AUC chairperson and youths cannot afford to miss this opportunity to share their views and suggestions, or be part of the sustainable solution. Even though the nearly 1 billion youth are not in a position where they have a say to select candidates for this top leadership position of the organization. The young people who have witnessed the work of the Commission, under Dr. Zuma’s Leadership, wonder who amongst the candidates, will be able to carry on her legacy on Youth Agenda advancement. Moreover, the next AUC Chairperson, whose term commences in 2017, will be working towards an agenda of “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend in Africa Towards the Realization of Sustainable Development Goals and AU Agenda 2063.” The next term will not only be a new era for 2018-2021 strategic planning, but a test for the successor on youth matters.
As an African Union Youth Volunteer (AUYV) alumni, I will share my perspective on Dr. Zuma’s legacy in the Commission through the eyes of a youth.
Dr. Zuma’s approach was to develop a well defined strategic plan that would highlight Strategic area number 5, to “Mainstream (women and) youth into all AUC activities.” While partners welcomed and applauded this “first ever, well elaborated strategic plan,” (using the words of a high official in a foreign government agency), this was a major milestone for any stakeholder to accompany the AUC work and to channel resources and energy towards achieving greater results for the African Union. Over the past four years, this has resulted in increased funding for youth related programs that foster skills development for youth throughout the continent.
On May 2013, while celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the OAU, Dr. Zuma strongly advocated for an investment in African youth, more interaction between youths, heads of states and government officials, and further pledged for a Youth Desk. Few months later, she appointed a youth advisor in her office and since then, the AUC host an annual inter -generational dialogue to promote youth mentorship, candid debates and discussions between political positions holders, experts and youth from all six regions of the continent, in order to stimulate ownership of youth agenda by the involved parties.
Overall, Dr Zuma’s leadership has been instrumental in mobilizing more resources and creating additional programs for youth development namely, the AU Youth Volunteer program, the African-German Youth Initiative (exchange program) under the Youth Division, the Legal Associate Program for junior legal experts posted mostly in the Office of Legal Council, the placement of returning Young African Leaders Alumni (Mandela Washington – YALI fellows), as well as the deployment of hundreds of AU volunteers across AUC departments and Liaisons Offices throughout the continent. Most important, Dr. Zuma’s office is staffed with at least 6 youth volunteers, what an achievement!
Dr. Zuma availed herself to young people, both virtually and physically, be it through her attendance at a youth gathering (chiefly the 2015 Inter-generational Dialogue in South Africa where she invited youth to invade political space), or through a series of tweet-chats and other online social media platforms. But it is the participants of the 10th Africa Regional Convention of Girls Guides and Girls Scout who recall the full participation of Dr. Zuma at their August 2013 event held in Lagos. Although she had a hectic schedule, she spent two days with Continental Volunteers, an organization committed to community service and young girls and women’s development.
Certainly, four years is not enough time for Dr. Zuma to implement her youth agenda. She strongly believes that education is key to unleashing a youth’s potential and innovation in the quest for a people-centered development for Africa through the Agenda 2063. Unfortunately, she may not be able to complete her project to transform the Youth Division into a full, capacitated department of the Commission before her departure.
However, Dr. Zuma’s legacy extends beyond youth issues. The power that lies in her leadership has inspired more women to run for political positions. We see that two out of the three candidates to replace her are females, H.E. Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, current Minister of Foreign Affairs of Botswana and Dr. Wandira Kazibwe Speciosa, former Minister for Vice President of Uganda, who is currently serving as Advisor for Health and Population to President Museveni.
If the elections take place in Rwanda this month, there will be three candidates to choose from. In addition to H.E. Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi (Bostwana) and Dr Wandira Kazibwe Speciosa (Uganda), there is a male candidate from Equatorial Guinea, Mr. Agapito Mba Mokuy . The candidates are eligible and more than capable to politically hold the position. The question is, which candidate is more youth-friendly and ready to take on the challenge of creating a better future for African youth? Who has the vision with regards to youth development in Africa? Who has more political willpower to gain stakeholders’ interest in the African Youth agenda? Can/should youth expect someone with no interest in youth issues, in his/her country, be able to work wonders at the Commission?
Zuma’s successor must have had previous work experience in youth related issues that speak for itself. African youth desire someone who will advocate for more youth-centered approaches for all of Africa’s challenges. She/he must be ready to advocate for the domestication of ALL AU policies, frameworks and binding instruments that secure social security to youth including the African Youth Charter, The Charter on Democracy, Governance and Elections, and make AUC departments, organs, programs, activities and AU decisions more youth-friendly. As a former African Union Youth Volunteer (AUYV), I would like to see the AUYVs have a standing and that budgets are allocated to programs where every young African benefits.
Whoever is elected by the AU Heads of States needs to know that there is no future for Africa without adequate investment in its youth. They would need to establish a legacy greater than Dr. Zuma’s.! We, the youth, await the next AUC chairperson who will push the youth agenda and give us The Africa Youth Want! Youth Hope for Dr. Zuma 2.0!
This opinion article was originally published on Africa is Moving