It’s all about #YouthConnekt!
Accelerating investment in youth resilience in Boko Haram-affected areas of the Lake Chad Basin
Africa has the youngest population in the world, with about 70% of sub-Saharan Africa under the age of 30. Such a demographic feature, therefore, presents an opportunity, as a powerful attractor for regional and global growth, only these new generations are fully empowered to realize their best potential.
For the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), Youth empowerment remains a critical component (pillar 9) of the Regional Strategy for the Stabilization, Recovery, and Resilience of the Boko Haram-affected areas of the Lake Chad Basin. Working with the youth is, therefore, central to stabilizing and building resilient communities in the region as well as giving life to their envisaged vision for the present and the future of the region. Speaking about youth empowerment, H.E Mamman NUHU, Executive Secretary of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) and Head of Mission of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), says, “Through the Regional Stabilization Strategy, we focus on empowering and including Youth, women, and CSOs as active agents of the stabilization and peacebuilding process in the region. Investing in the youth therefore does not only help in addressing the structural and root causes of youth vulnerabilities but also the erosion of social values. Platforms like #YouthConnekt are welcome to strengthen our collaborative efforts.”
Over the last decades, Africa has continued to experience rapid technological and economic development, creating new opportunities for millions of people across the continent. As a response to creating a platform where young Africans can meet and share experiences, the Government of Rwanda and UNDP launched in 2012 the Youth Connekt Africa, a highly successful initiative by Africans for Africa.
From 13-15th October 2022, eight members of the Youth Network of the Lake Chad Basin, representing the eight Boko Haram most affected areas of the region, namely, North, and Far North regions (Cameroon), Diffa (Niger), Borno, Adamawa & Yobe States (Nigeria) and Hadjer-Lamis and Lac (Chad) and attended the #YouthConnekt2022 in Kigali. These delegates, who are active in the region, continue to provide interventions that make a difference for youths and the entire community in areas such as politics, human rights, gender advocacy, entrepreneurship, and civil service). had the opportunity to meet, connect and share ideas with other young people from across the continent who equally impact their communities and countries.
For Indira Banga, the delegate from the Far-North region of Cameroon, it’s time to advocate for a better recognition of youth expertise in such forums. “Participating in the #YouthConnekt allowed me to understand that there is still a long way to go in the active and effective participation of Youth in the decision-making spheres and as partners and not only as beneficiaries and spectators. Thus, we need to strengthen the young people to reach out to other stakeholders as partners and collaborators. We are the leaders of today, not tomorrow!“.
Youth Connekt has become an annual convening that connects Youth from across the continent and beyond with policy influencers, political leaders, public/private, and development sector institutions to engage, discuss, design, and accelerate youth empowerment efforts at the continent level. The #YouthConnekt2022, themed “Accelerating Investment in Youth-Resilient Youth, Resilient Africa”, held in Kigali, Rwanda, from 13 to15 October 2022, mobilized more than 9,000 Delegates and Experts from across the world. Discussions revolved around various themes aimed at identifying opportunities for connection and connectivity between youth and their partners, on climate change (COP 27, being prepared in Egypt), development, agricultural investment, and financing for agricultural industrialization, which occupies a prominent place all African States.
The Summit provides a platform for all partners involved in youth development to synergize around policies, programs, and partnerships, connecting Youth for continental transformation. It is imperative that young people are included in decision-making process and given appropriate work opportunities to innovate. “What an amazing experience! I have been opportuned to join the National Youth Council Presidents across all the African countries where we set an agenda to collaborate and continue sharing knowledge from all ramifications of our personal and professional work especially on advocacies at our respective region.” Yusuf Abba, representing Borno State, Nigeria.
Youths also seek to empower young people to actively participate in African Union’s Agenda 2063 for sustainable development by enhancing their knowledge, experiences, and skills while investing in their ideas, innovations, initiatives, but also in terms of representation. Furthermore, beyond climate change, addressing major challenges such as investment for the training, financing of young people, will allow better long-lasting stabilization of the Lake Chad Basin.
“We are the leaders of today; and no one will hand over the space to us, we need to insist and seize the opportunities through continued lobbying and advocacies. It saddens me to see less participation and buy-in from my country at the Summit, from the Federal Ministries to the panel discussions. Nigeria has a lot to offer at such a summit. There has to be serious mobilization from other African countries to have a robust representation and exchanges that will drive change. I look forward to seeing the youths being at the Centre of the Youth connect 2024, and also to see the birth of LCB youth connect.” Said Oyemah Joy from Yobe State, Nigeria.
To date, 28 African Countries have launched a national chapters of the Youth Connekt, and more are scaling up their efforts. In 2021, The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with the Youth Connekt Africa (YCA) Hub, the United Nations Office of the Special Coordinator for Development in the Sahel (OSCDS) and the Generation Unlimited Initiative in the Sahel (#GenUSahel) launched the Youth Connekt Sahel Forum in Dakar, Senegal. It was a platform that provided to Sahelian Youth from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, The Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, and Senegal to express themselves to the fullest. The overarching goal is to inspire, connect, engage, and empower young people in the region to rebrand the Sahel as a land of opportunities and investment.
“I was amazed by the enthusiasm of the Youth around this Summit in Kigali. It made me understand that at the level of the Lake Chad Basin youth network, we must redouble our efforts to make our voice heard and create frameworks for reflection and action for solutions to the problems plaguing our region”-Mahamat Mahamat ADJI: Chad.
In the near future, the Republic of Chad will host the second edition of the Youth Connekt Sahel Forum, and the lake Chad Basin Commission Regional stabilization strategy will support the active participation of the affected area’s Youths.
“We cannot succeed in the stabilization, recovery, and development of the Lake Chad Basin without crucial actors like the Youth who are experiencing the consequences of this crisis more than ever. Their participation in decision-making is non-negotiable and we stand by their side to ensure a smooth transition“- said Chika Charles Aniekwe, Regional Stabilization Strategy Secretariat Coordinator.
The youth expectations in the region are high as they intend to play their role in writing a new narrative for the LCB. Having a frame where they could put their aspirations and solutions on the table and build partnerships to achieve these aims will be the next step for our 8 delegates: maybe a #YouthConnekt for the Lake Chad Basin!