From 30 November to 2 December 2021, Dakar will serve as the capital for Sahelian youth. The Senegalese capital will host young people from 10 Sahel countries for the first edition of the YouthConnekt Sahel Forum.
The Sahel is host to the world’s youngest population, with an estimated 65 percent under the age of 35. Despite this, increasing instability, untapped natural resources and the exclusion of youth in political and socio-economic processes continue to hamper the region's growth. The YouthConnekt Sahel Forum 2021 aims to position Sahelian youth as leaders in the region's development narrative by promoting youth-led innovation, participation and engagement.
Organized by the YouthConnekt Africa Hub, in partnership with the Generation Unlimited Initiative in the Sahel (GenUSahel), the Government of Senegal, the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Forum will create a platform for Sahelian youth to voice their issues, promote local solutions, rebrand the region and shape the futures they want.
“Youth in the Sahel today are the generation that will change the sub-region's destiny,” said Ahunna Eziakonwa, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Regional Director for Africa. “Investing in youth, particularly in their leading role as agents of change in managing resources, fostering climate adaptation and building resilience is how we can address the triple threat of poverty, violence and climate change while building more inclusive and safer communities. The YouthConnekt Sahel Forum offers a platform to start a much-needed conversation on how together we can regenerate the Sahel.”
The YouthConnekt Sahel Forum will convene annually to connect youth from across the region and beyond with policy influencers, political leaders, industry titans and development institutions to engage, discuss, design and accelerate youth empowerment efforts. Over three days, a combination of youth-centred events will take place, including informative sessions, high-level plenaries, panel discussions, keynote speeches, mini-workshops, awards, learning visits, exhibitions and cultural events.
The Minister of Youth of Senegal, Néné Fatoumata Tall, welcomed the initiative which aims to address social, economic and political disparities such as youth exclusion from political participation. She emphasized that the platform will “reposition youth who are often left out of decision-making processes. A conscious, educated and protected youth is a mandatory requirement for tackling major challenges of the sub-region and the continent.”
The Forum will also mark the official launch of the regional YouthConnekt Sahel Initiative and the YouthConnekt Senegal Chapter, with discussions focusing on opportunities for youth empowerment and economic, social, digital and political engagement.
“The potential of the Sahelian youth has largely flown under the radar, mostly due to the challenges prevalent in the region,” said Njoya Tikum, Manager, UNDP Sub-Regional Hub for West and Central Africa. “We have a golden opportunity to reverse this trend and put the region's greatest resource on track to shaping their future and that of the region.”
The YouthConnekt Sahel Initiative will inspire, connect and empower young Sahelians to rebrand the Sahel from fragility, crisis and violence to a land of opportunities and investment. The initiative will also strengthen national YouthConnekt programmes to provide critical support to youth, promote innovative and promising practices, and reinforce local solutions as integrated models to empower youth and contribute to national development.
“Sahelian youth are the engine to drive their economies and contribute to the region's development. The YouthConnekt Africa Hub stands firmly together with partners to empower young Sahelians to secure their livelihoods and enable them to develop strong leadership, establish and engage in relevant platforms to ensure an improved economy in their respective YouthConnekt Chapters,” said Oulie Keita, Executive Director, YouthConnekt Africa Hub.
Since its launch in 2017, YouthConnekt Africa has been at the forefront of the youth empowerment ecosystem in the continent, equipping young Africans with economic, social and civic leadership opportunities; increasing access to finance and technical assistance for scalable youth-led enterprises and innovative youth empowerment initiatives; and improving ownership of the youth socio-economic transformation agenda.
Several African countries have expressed strong interest in learning from YouthConnekt and replicating the model in their respective countries. Among the 10 UNISS Sahel countries, YouthConnekt Africa is present in nine namely: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal. Nigeria is making preparation to launch its national chapter.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).