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ADDIS ABABA - The Pan-African Youth Empowerment (PAYE) Conference gave 150 young people from 47 African countries the opportunity to meet with and learn from representatives from international and Pan-African institutions, corporations and academia.

The conference, held 22-24 August 2017, was co-hosted by SOS Children’s Villages International and the African Union.

 “Today, young people across Africa face an uncertain future, a lack of opportunity and a lack of ability to realise potential”, said Norbert Meder, CEO of SOS Children’s Villages International. “The young people participating in this conference have set out a strong outcome statement, which calls upon all of us to take action and ensure young people can find and create the opportunities they need.”
 
Albert Muchanga, African Union Commissioner of Trade and Industry, told the conference: “My message to the young people: I am listening very clearly, I am very attentive to the outcomes,” he said. “The three-day conference has given you, the youth, a voice and power to contribute in transforming challenges into opportunities. You know your potential. The three day conference has emboldened you to realise that potential.”

Of the African continent’s 1.2 billion people, an estimated 200 million are between ages 15 and 24, making employability a challenge at the global, regional and national levels.

Empowering young people is critical to give them the tools, experience and jobs they need to succeed in life. The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda Goal 8, Africa Union Agenda 2063 Aspiration 6 and SOS Children’s Villages Strategy 2030 Objective 3 provide a new opportunity to mobilise broad global partnerships to support action on a more significant scale.

A call for action

Based on the discussions at the conference, the youth participants developed outcomes which include calls to action for young people, governments, non-governmental organisations and corporations.
 
The outcome statement was presented by Winnifred Johnson, a young woman from Nigeria, who emphasised that young people in Africa have what it takes to face the challenge of youth employability and effect change: “Despite all the problems and struggles that young people in Africa are going through, it is true that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. We believe that Africa will rise and shine, powered by its young people.”

The participants will return home and share their findings, experiences and outcomes with their peers. The next step is up to them – to use this chance to reach out to governments, non-governmental organisations and companies, finding ways to work together to address the challenge of youth employability. A possible next step is for the outcome statement to be integrated within national and regional youth strategies.

In total, 250 people attended the conference. Representatives from companies as Allianz, DHL, Microsoft and Coca-Cola shared their insights on programmes that support young people at the start of their careers looking to build experience.