Second Pan African Youth Forum: Reaching 1 Million Youth by 2021

Young people need more training, more awareness raising, more wisdom, and more opportunities. Nobody can speak for the youth, what they need to articulate for themselves. It is extraordinary that youth can speak out their mind today.” These were the opening remarks of H.E. Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, at the second Pan African Youth Forum convened from the 24 – 27 April 2019 at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The youth forum is the first of its kind in that it seeks to address some of Africa’s complex challenges such as youth employment, skills mismatch, ill health and wellbeing, inequality, and disempowerment. Hence, the theme of the forum aims to bridge the gap by reaching 1 million youth by 2021 by providing education, entrepreneurship, employment and engagement opportunities for millions of African youth


The format of the forum was highly comprehensive and organised, creating several avenues for youth engagement. There was a capacity building session where participants were provided with a background of the African Union Commission and the overall agenda of the youth forum. There was also a Congress on the first day with an introduction to the AU vision and opportunities for participants to lead the process of defining solutions for youth engagement. The second and third day of the forum witnessed a co-creation session organised for participants to explore opportunities and define the process for leading change; noting the responsibilities for different actors. Throughout the forum, there was a Marketplace for participants and partners to showcase innovative ideas and solutions that have been tested in their spaces.


Framing the discussions: Panel Discussion on Trends, Bottleneck, and Solutions

According to the representative of the ILO, “By 2050, ⅓ of all the youth in the world will be from Africa but what we haven’t heard is that the world is ageing in every region, except Africa. The African Union is good at developing frameworks but how good is it in terms of implementations?” Youth employment is the topmost priority for the ILO in Africa. 96% of young people in Africa work in the formal economy and 37% of young people in Africa – 4 out of 10, are in poverty. We must not focus only on the numbers, quality is crucial. 1 in 5 young Africa neither have a job or are in education or training. This comes to 54.4 million. That’s a huge gap.

According to reports from the global commission on the future of work, as the world of work changes, people will have multiple transitions in their working lives. There is a need to focus on appropriate skilling, upskilling and reskilling to ensure that the needs of young people are optimised. School to work transition cannot effectively take place if there’s no appropriate demand; if the labour market is absent to effectively match demand to supply.

In 2017, there was significant research that 22% of Africa working age population are starting new businesses. “They are starting, but are they sustaining and expanding those businesses?” We need to have targeted intervention to engage young people as entrepreneurs. Bringing young entrepreneurs into local, regional and global value chains increases their market. Network and peer to peer support, specifically among youth plays a crucial role in the sustenance of young entrepreneurs. Also, beyond engagement at the general level, engagement of young men and women in the labour market is crucial. How engaged are young people in decision making in the labour market processes? We must optimise the potential of the digital economy. It’s not about providing the skills on the supply side, it is also about the demand, supply and intermediation, that is, those who facilitate the connection between the demand and supply.

According to GIZ, the youth of this world hold the key to a better future for all. We must make sure they are well equipped to use that key. The challenges are too big for professionals to tackle but we need more minds (young people) to help address these issues.  GIZ is connecting people, partners and ideas across Africa and the 4Es creates an avenue for GIZ to achieve its broader agenda. Currently, GIZ supports the Pan African University in Practical teaching and skills development, TVET which gives young people hands-on experience in the job market. GIZ, together with the AU, aspire to connect people, ideas and opportunities for Africa.

Ideas and Solutions from Youth


  • Let’s organise as youth to join labour unions, join initiatives and force our governments to change policies.
  • A lot of young people have the skills but are often subjected to low-level jobs with unrealistic criteria. Most African countries don’t implement a minimum wage policy. The AU needs to have a say and convince member states to allow young people to be the entrepreneurs that we are all talking about.
  • Almost every African country is trying to implement the target program particularly on SDG4 but it is not recognised. We need to have a policy to ensure that these targets are implemented.
  • Youth need financial support. Today youth do have skills but how do they implement without support? In Mali, 43% of students carry outside events while studying.
  • Leaders can provide advisory roles but youth should be the drivers of the future we want.
  • Let’s avoid reinventing the wheel and tapping into the talents of young people. We need to strategise and create mentorship programs where we can create pathways for youth people to maximise opportunities.

Co-Creation Session on Youth Engagement

On youth leadership and development, the current trend is the tendency for youth to emerge as changemakers. Youth are engaging and demanding change in the way they frame ideas and messages about their aspirations. Its evident that youth are exercising leadership in various ways. Young people are using technology to frame aspirations on specific issues pertinent to them. They are using social media to connect to global discusses. Young people are successfully engaged in economic activities; forming tech startups and leading in various organisations. It’s quite evident that young people are exercising leadership in fundamental ways.

What does not work is the limited participation that young people have. Young people are not able to frame decisions and where they frame decisions, they have no power. The idea of civic participation is to involve young people through NGO models to participate in civic issues but such models are not working. What we need to do is to let young people lead these organisations but create spaces where young people can have discussions and participate in decision-making processes.

The engagement has to be meaningful and structured. There is currently a disconnection with meaningful engagement and the work on the ground. Exchange programs are framed in such a way that should target disconnected communities but this is not the case on the ground. Sensitization; we often pay for young people to go abroad but there’s a disconnection with their lived situation on the ground. We need to move toward ensuring that exchanges are skill promoting and not just experience.


Idea and Solutions from Youth

“Institutions should build their own capacities to work in partnership with young people so that they are meaningfully engaged in the design and delivery of their programmes, but also at a strategic level within the institutions. We need to focus on what’s working and avoid duplicating efforts.” – Victoria Ibiwoye

Representing UNESCO, Victoria Ibiwoye seized the opportunity to make an intervention on reinforcing the institutional capacities to meaningfully engage with young people. According to Victoria, Young people are often consulted and contribute to policy processes. Young people are also involved as partners than ever before. However, what’s missing is meaningful youth engagement at strategic levels. UNESCO, through several consultations with young people has developed the Operational Strategy on Meaningful Youth Engagement. This is a guideline that the AU can replicate to learn what works best and what doesn’t on youth engagement processes.

Commitment Session

The forum closed with a commitment session where partners to the forum pledged to help achieve the ambitious agenda of reaching 1 million youth by 2021. Here is a list of partners and their pledges:


  • Commit to provide technical and financial resources to support the initiative.
  • Help mobilise financial support with African government and partners to ensure that the continent is on track to reach these goals.
  • Work with the African Union Commission to establish a sustainable finance architecture to support the initiative.
  • Provide employment opportunities to at least 200 young people by 2021.

Open Society Foundation

  • 1 $million pledge to the 1 million initiative by 2021.


  • Pledge to help Africa’s youth build a new kind of education using entertainment and technology through the Trace Academy
  • Trace TV to invest close to $50 million on this platform.


  • Commit to support 3 pillars: employment, nurturing startups, education and teacher development.


  • Commit to invest in all 4Es.
  • Pledge to provide support in training in the banking sector, in finance.
  • Offer a wide range of internships and junior professional programs with opportunities for research sabbatical.
  • Provide capital for equity.
  • Planned continental leadership programs for youth engagement.
  • There are existing initiatives which youth should take advance of such as Post Graduate Degree in Trade Finance, the pilot will commence this year.
  • Run an annual trade finance seminar.


  • Pledge to support the initiate through the AfriLab Academy, to support alternative pathways under the education pillar in training young people in innovation skills. It supports Africa’s positioning as the center for global talents.
  • Commits to using the AfriLab annual gathering as a platform to convene and engage key stakeholders to promote the 1 million initiative.


  • Pledges to resources to academics to create employable jobs.


  • Pledges to reaffirm UNFPA’s commitment to youth development. UNFPA will leverage its youth program that invests over $500,000 to reach 5 million youth by 2021.
  • Leverage on-ground presence and cooperation with partners on the ground. The 500 million will be invested in comprehensive education, remove obstacles that keep girls out of school, provide employment opportunities through the AU Youth Corp program, advocating with partners on the professionalisation of youth work, entrepreneurship, youth engagement through the platform of AfriYan and Y-Peer, invest in young people in humanitarian settings (migrants and refugees), legislation particularly as it relates to sexual and gender violence, data through training of young statisticians and evaluators, finally, the right of young people to health and wellbeing to ensure that young people are healthy and have access to youth-friendly health services.


  • Commit to supporting youth through the Korea-Africa Foundation initiatives.


  • Commit to further working with the AUC. To further strengthen the 4Es. To further ensure that youth empowerment remains a further priority.
  • Pledge 40 million euros to finance youth skills development and 1.4 million euros for technical assistance.
  • Strengthen the international and Pan African youth exchange opportunities through exchange and volunteering.


  • Pledges to give opportunities to young women and men in Africa and ILO’s global offices.
  • To organise the global youth employment forum to be hosted by Nigeria.
  • Develop youth-focused programs in Central Africa that would unleash the potential of young people in the rural economy.
  • Developing AUC ITU transformational program looking at how to create decent jobs for young Africans in the digital economy.
  • Promoting decent work opportunities for Africa’s youth in the blue economy; to invest in the future of work for Africa.
  • (Speaker – Ms. Cynthia Olajuwon) Pledges to work with the commission to mentor 3 young women from the participants.


  • Commits to support the AUC initiative with training for 40,000 small business owners in digital marketing skills through Boost You business programs and She Means Business.
  • Provide opportunities for youth to apply to Facebook’s programs. Provide physical space for learning on digital space through the NG Hub in Lagos, Nigeria.


  • Commit to providing seed grants of $15,000 to entrepreneurs in East Africa for young entrepreneurs working on new media.
  • Pledges to support youth engagement by providing research and evidence-based tools for youth to hold leaders accountable.


  • Commit to create 25 million jobs for young people and empower 50 million youth in Africa.


  • Commit to establishing 5 Africa 2063 youth innovation packs; centers of excellence where youth can come together to be provided with the tools, skills, and practical knowledge to become employable or create their own jobs.


  • Commit the RED Media platforms (YNaija and TV Shows) to support the commission.
  • Dedicate an arm of the Future Award to the 1 Million initiative. Also, support the commission with storytelling and strategic continental advisory.
  • Pitched to help the commission run a 100 Champions for the 1 Million initiatives.


  • Commit to supporting engagement through collaboration with the AU Division to enable youth in Africa to be able to participate in decision-making processes.
  • Support capacity building efforts and entrepreneurship program in the organisation’s 23 regions in Africa.
  • Nurture startups and skills transfer hubs.
  • Welcomes collaboration and partnership with multi-stakeholders to create opportunities for youth to be agents of change, and bring youth unto the path of sustainable development.


  • Commit to invest in teacher development and create a trust fund for a scholarship. Invest in 50 entrepreneurs to upscale their business to $1 million over the next 2 years.


  • Commit to invest in human capacity development and provide mentorship.


  • Commit to organise an inter-generational retreat on civic leadership.
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