This is the third edition of what has now become the Banjul Forum of African Youth.
It is larger than the previous ones in terms of the number of participants.
Like the previous ones, it is focusing on issues that are absolutely central to the lives and futures of the youth of Africa.
And, perhaps more than the previous forums, this one is forward-looking.
The youth are diving change processes in all continents.
Just over two years ago, we met here in Banjul in the second Youth Forum. This country was then celebrating the end of 22 years of dictatorship, and the youth of Africa were here to learn from The Gambia, and share their experiences, and think together about ways of making sure that authoritarian misrule leaves our continent forever.
In this third edition of the Banjul Forum, the young people of Africa have decided to focus on the leadership roles that young people of the continent can play to make sure that the SDGs are achieved on the continent (do better than we did with the MDGs), and that the AU Agenda 2063 is fully implemented and the AU vision, that we share, of a sovereign, prosperous, united, peaceful continent democratically governed by its own citizens, is realized.
Achieving the SDGs and realizing the AU Vision requires addressing both the current challenges of governance, and structural transformation at various levels. It is only with that, that we will be able to address the even more complex and formidable challenges that lie ahead.
Africa is still the continent of paradoxes:
- The paradox of widespread poverty where there is an abundance of resources and great knowledge and talents
- Being the continent with some of the highest growth rates, but also the most unequal societies;
- A vast majority of young people (65%), who are excluded from participation in governance
The themes of the Forum speak to all these challenges and paradoxes, and to many more:
- Gender and human rights
- Conflict and the culture of peace
- Climate change and migration
- The 4th industrial revolution and the future of work
- The ICTs, the creation of spaces of freedom, and the closing of the civic space
- The future of education, research, and youth employment
- Academic freedom and the freedom of expression
The Forum is therefore deliberately forward-looking. We share the view that the future is not predetermined because of some kind of irreversibility of time: together, we can create the futures we want, we can build the Africa we want, and the world we want.
This continent will have a population of more than 1.7 billion inhabitants by 2030. By the year 2050, the population of Africa will be more than 2 billion. Depending on what we and our governments choose to prioritise now and in the coming years and decades, this can be a disaster scenario, or an opportunity to make Africa a land of peace, prosperity, freedom and dignified people.
The youth of Africa have decided to fully exercise their agency, now and in the future. They want to live in safe and secure environments; they want jobs, but also the freedom to travel, live and work where ever they want on this continent; they want to live in decent homes and have access to good and affordable schools and health services. They also want to have access to all the means of communications, and have a say on how the affairs of this continent are run.
We all want dignity, freedom and development, for ourselves and for our children, in a world where that is the rule, not the exception.
We the partners have committed resources and time to be here.
We need to think about ways of continuing the conversation, and the work to be done in between forums.
We are confident that this Forum will live on.
We thank the VP Dr Isatou Touray for taking the time to be here today. We thank the government ministers, the VC of UTG and other senior officials who will be coming to participate in the inter-generational dialogue that we are going to hold here.
We thank all of you participants for coming, and we thank Unesco, and the NATCOM, the GNYC and all those who made it possible for us to hold this Forum.
I thank you for your attention.
Banjul, 29th October 2019