On 27 July 2021, UCLG Africa held the first virtual meeting of the Network of Young Elected Officials of Africa, on the theme of « Young local elected officials facing the effects of Covid -19 ».
This meeting was attended by about fifty participants, which included elected youth, researchers and entrepreneurs, who assembled to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on young people, and the initiatives and role of the youth in the context of the ongoing health crisis.
Two panels structured these exchanges. The first, on the theme “Youth and responsibility“, addressed the political dimension of youth engagements at the height of the crisis, which was handled by Mrs. Thérèse Faye Diouf, Mayor of Diarrere; the impact of digital on the security dimension of our territories, was taken care of by M. Tom Marten.
The second panel on “Youth as a workforce in the growth of the continent” focused on the role of young people in economic recovery. This slot was marked by the intervention, of Mr. Frederik Tchoungui, Founder of “Community of Global Leaders”. Mr. Oliver Bastienne, President of the Seychelles Chamber of Commerce and Industry, made an impressive presentation with explanation and examples of how young entrepreneurs were faring the recovery of the effect of the pandemic. Mrs. Jacqueline Moustache-Belle, Director of the Gender and Youth Department at the General Secretariat of UCLG Africa, moderated this meeting in the presence of the Secretary General, Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi.
The first panel highlighted two important points; the challenges imposed by the COVID-19 crisis on young people, both politically and in terms of mobility of people, and the importance of involving young people in the stimulus strategies.
The closure of public places and restrictions of movements have completely changed the behaviour of the youth in African cities. The Mayor of Diarrere, emphasized on the importance of the involvement of young people in the economic recovery and in building the future of African cities. She encouraged young men and women to invest in municipal councils and to actively participate in decision-making processes and deliberations relating to budgets.
For his part, Mr. Marten emphasized the constraints of COVID-19 on international travelling particularly for tourism purposes. The tourism industry has been brought to its knees by the pandemic. The closure of frontiers worldwide indirectly accelerated the use of technology and innovation in the digital field. The use of digital technologies by governments, for example Seychelles has been favored to revive and foster tourism, in and to create the conditions for a return to normalcy and equally ensuring the health security of citizens and tourists. During this panel, the questions were mainly focused on the political aspects of the contribution of young people to the revival of urban economies: how to mobilize young people? How to increase the participation of young people in political parties? It was proposed that UCLG Africa and the national associations of African local governments, should develop advocacy for national governments and political parties, to facilitate the access to electoral lists and political affairs.
The second panel addressed the issue of economic recovery by highlighting the role of young people in the field of entrepreneurship. In this panel, it was first a question of promoting the initiatives of young people who aim to create and find sources of funding, despite the context of the health crisis. Mr. Tchoungui thus encouraged young entrepreneurs and elected officials to make digital technology one of the keys to the development of African cities. To achieve this, improving and upgrading telecommunications infrastructure is essential, hence the appeal to the public authorities for more investment in this sector.
Mr. Bastienne’s presentation showed how COVID-19 has impacted all areas of the private sector employing young people (drop in productivity, unemployment, etc.). The Seychelles Chamber of Commerce has supported young people by providing them with financing, technical support, and training, especially for entrepreneurs. The government, together with the private sector also designed a recovery and prosperity plan in which the youth participated actively. The importance of Information and Communication Technologies was underlined to show the impact of young people in digital development as a provider for the jobs of the future.
The summary of the discussions highlighted the need to network and form coalitions because the many issues facing young local elected officials cannot be addressed without the participation of all stakeholders. Synergies is of utmost necessity towards building the Africa we want.
The exchanges on this vital issues allowed the participants to realize that “one cannot build Africa without its driving force, namely the youth”, and that the COVID-19 crisis has brought changes that will be here to stay. We have to learn to adapt. It is only through solidarity that our African cities and the world will overcome this pandemic.
By way of closing this meeting, the Secretary General of UCLG Africa stressed on the importance that the national and local levels should work to produce youth policies and youth participation, and to include youth representation at decision making level, in order to have credible and lasting responses.
Find the concept note of the meeting here.