UN Chief Underscores Need To Invest In Africa’s Youth – Analysis
By Jutta Wolf
The Group of Seven (G7) leaders has in its ‘Taormina Communiqué‘ underscored that “Africa’s security, stability and sustainable development are high priorities”. But it has yet to respond to UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ specific call for the need to invest in young people, with stronger investment in technology and relevant education and capacity building in Africa.
The two-day G7 summit in Italy, in which the leaders of six other industrial nations – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the U.S. also took part, concluded on May 27 in Taormina, a hilltop town on the east coast of Sicily, Italy.
Speaking at a session on reinforcing the partnership between the G7 and Africa, the UN Secretary-General noted on the concluding day that the international community has a role in helping the continent adapt as it heads for a new wave of industrialization.
African leaders joined the session. They included: President of Niger Mahamandou Issoufou; Kenya’s President Uhura Kenyatta; Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi; Nigeria’s Deputy Prime Minister Yemi Osinbajo; and Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Haile Mariam Desalegn.
Representatives of African organizations such as the African Union Chairperson Alpha Condé, African Union Commission Chairperson Mahamat Moussa Faki, and President of African Bank for Development Akinwumi Adesina also attended.
Beside Guterres, OECD Secretary General Angel Gurría, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde, and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim attended the Summit as well.
Emphasizing the need to help Africa adapt as it heads for a new wave of industrialization, the UN Chief told G7 leaders, “Failing to do so might have dramatic consequences for the well-being of the people of Africa; increase fragility, causing massive displacement and risking to boost unemployment, especially for young people.”
Africa has the fastest growing youth population in the world, which must be supported with education and training in tomorrow’s jobs, he added.
“High levels of youth unemployment are not only a tragedy for young people themselves, but can also undermine development and generate frustration and alienation that, in turn, can become a threat to global peace and security,” Guterres cautioned.
Investment in youth must include education and training for girls and women. Gender inequality is costing sub-Saharan Africa $95 billion a year, which at six per cent of the region’s gross domestic product is “a needless loss of inclusive human development and economic growth,” the UN chief said.
In paragraph 18 of the 39-point Communiqué, the G7 leaders admitted that gender equality is fundamental for the fulfillment of human rights and a top priority for them, as women and girls are powerful agents for change.
“Promoting their empowerment and closing the gender gap is not only right, but also smart for our economies, and a crucial contribution to progress towards sustainable development,” the Communiqué stated.
And this against the backdrop that “women and girls face high rates of discrimination, harassment, and violence and other human rights violations and abuses.”
Affirming what the UN Women has been stressing, the G7 said: “Although girls and women today are better educated than ever before, they are still more likely to be employed in low-skilled and low-paying jobs, carry most of the burden of unpaid care and domestic work, and their participation and leadership in private and public life as well as their access to economic opportunities remains uneven. Increasing women’s involvement in the economy – such as by closing the gender gaps in credit and entrepreneurship and by enhancing women’s access to capital, networks and markets – can have dramatically positive economic impacts.”
The G7 assured that they have undertaken significant measures to tackle gender inequality, but admitted, “more needs to be done.” They therefore remain committed to mainstreaming gender equality into all their policies.
While assuring that Africa’s security, stability and sustainable development are high priorities for the G7, paragraph 26 of the 39-point Communiqué said: “Our goal is indeed to strengthen cooperation and dialogue with African countries and regional organizations to develop African capacity in order to better prevent, respond to and manage crises and conflicts, as regards the relevant goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
A stable Africa means a stable environment for investment, the Leaders’ Communiqué said, adding: “In this regard, we note the forthcoming launch by the EU of the External Investment Plan (EIP) as an important tool to boost investment in the continent, as well as the envisaged G20 Partnership Initiative with Africa and the investment pledge made at the Tokyo International Conference for African Development (TICADVI).”
The G7 leaders also consider it important to continue their efforts to expand reliable access to energy in Africa. “Unlocking Africa’s potential requires empowering millions of people through innovation, education, promoting gender equality and human capital development.”
The G7 leaders realize that decent employment, better health services, and food security will also contribute to building a more resilient society in a rapidly changing world.
“We aim to work in partnership with the African continent, supporting the African Union Agenda 2063, in order to provide the young generation in particular with adequate skills, quality infrastructures, financial resources, and access to a sustainable, prosperous and safe future,” the G7 leaders pledge. Because such advances promise to help reduce migratory pressure, relieve humanitarian emergencies and create socio-economic opportunities for all.
Noting that a majority of African countries have improved their competitiveness and business environments, an important aspect that the G7 appeared to have ignored, the UN chief stressed: “Our shared challenge is to build on these gains and to change the narrative about Africa – from crisis-based narrative to an opportunities-based narrative. We know that the full and true story of Africa is that of a continent with enormous potential for success.”
He also called for moving manufacturing and traditional activities, such as agriculture, higher up the global value chain, as well as investing in infrastructure thus linking links regions, countries and communities.
“Smart digital platforms, smart grids, smart logistics infrastructure can link urban and rural, and better connect the people of Africa to each other and the world,” Guterres stated, adding: “More than just the transfer of technology, we need to maximize the power of innovation for the people of Africa.”
Such support and innovation will help to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Africa’s framework for socio-economic transformation, known as Agenda 2063, the UN Chief said.