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Meeting in Senegal discusses Africa’s youth

At the weekend, business leaders and key African figures met in Dakar to discuss the continent’s young people.

The capital of Senegal was chosen to host the 2012 annual meeting of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which was set up to support good governance and leadership in Africa. A special public concert was held to kick off the event with high profile performers such as Mokobe, Didier Awadi and La Fouine. Proceeds from the concert went to the Senegalese Red Cross.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu attended to accept a special award from the Foundation, recognising his lifelong commitment to “speaking truth to power”. In his acceptance speech, the Archbishop said that if he stood out from the crowd, it was only because he was “carried on the shoulders of others” and paid tribute to all those who had supported him during his lifetime.

Desmond Tutu also talked about the young people of Africa, the focus of this year’s gathering. He urged young Africans not to be “affected by the cynicism of ‘oldies’ like us”, but instead to “go ahead and dream of a different kind of world”. The Archbishop contrasted such hope for a better world with leaders who “continue to spend billions on instruments of death and destruction when a small part of that could ensure children everywhere have clean water”.

Many figures from across Africa gathered in Dakar to discuss the growing number of Africa’s young. Discussions centred on themes addressed in the 2012 report released by the Ibrahim Forum, ‘African Youth: Fulfilling the Potential’. The report highlights how within three generations’ time, over two-fifths of the world’s youth will be African. This means that by 2035, the continent will have a larger labour force than China.

Attendees in Dakar discussed how Africa can reap the benefits of this imminent demographic dividend by ensuring young people are able to compete at a global level for work and skills. Other important questions were raised, such as whether governments need to develop policies around job creation rather than economic growth. Already, too many of Africa’s young people are unemployed and many countries are suffering from a drain of the young and skilled.

The Senegalese prime minister, Abdoul Mbaye, spoke about school reform, job creation and mentoring. Olusegun Obasanjo, the former president of Nigeria, said “my generation had more opportunities than facilities; your generation has more facilities than it has opportunities”.

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