‘We are ready to step up, involve us more’ – African youth tells the PAP

The Pan-African Parliament (PAP) held its first virtual public lecture on 30 June 2020 under the theme: “The Role of the African Youth in Achieving the Mandate of the PAP”. Young Africans who took part in the engagement with members of the continental Parliament signaled the youths’ readiness to participate in the building of the African Union (AU) and called on the PAP to facilitate their inclusion in spheres of decision-making around the continent.

The PAP virtual Lecture was held in line with the commitment to engage with Africans from diverse backgrounds, representing a wealth of ideas and experiences. The recently concluded engagement focused on students in tertiary institutions with the aim to empower them with knowledge on the PAP and its intended function as a legislative organ of the AU.

The webinar featured a presentation by PAP’s Vice President Hon. Chief Fortune CHARUMBIRA on the PAP and its mandate as well as the place it gives to young people in the execution of its prerogatives: “The PAP was established” amongst other things, “to represent and defend the voices of the peoples of Africa and ensure their full participation in the affairs of the AU. This engagement with the youth speaks to the core mandate of the Parliament as we are called upon to serve as a platform for young people to play a role in the integration of our continent.”

As part of this event, selected young Africans were also given a platform to make submissions and engage with members of the PAP on various topics in relation to their role within the framework of the mandate of the PAP. The contributions were made by Abdulahi Ahmed HASSAN, Leadership and Governance Student at Makerere University in Uganda; Tanveer JEEWA, LLM Student at University of Cape Town and Researcher at AfricanLII; Charity Emehill BARTELS, Founder of Emehill Transformation: Foundation for Children in Ghana; and Brenda WANJIRU, Student at Kenya School of Law and International Law and African History Educator.

Their presentations included the PAP’s role in promoting the interests of young people and their political participation at the AU level; how the PAP can leverage digitalization to engage the youth; the role of the PAP in mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the youth; and ways the PAP can effectively involve the youth in the promotion of peace and security on the continent especially in line with the AU theme of the year 2020. The presenters were unanimous in their appeal to African Parliamentarians to ensure that young people, who represent about 70% of the African population, are given priority in policy formulation. The panellists also demanded that the PAP works to position the youth as key stakeholders in good governance, transparency and accountability in AU member states.

In his response to the submissions, Hon. Dr. Tapiwa MASHAKADA (Zimbabwe) sought to emphasize the nexus between youth and the mandate of the PAP. He further discussed some of the steps taken by the PAP to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 on young people.

“As the PAP, we have urged members to ensure that AU member states allocate adequate funding to cater for healthcare and education systems when budgets are submitted to Parliaments for consideration. The PAP has resolved to use its control over national budgets to make the plight of young people a priority in the of the COVID-19 pandemic because we understand that the youth will be badly affected.”

Hon. Lutfi Sharif Mohamed OMER (Somalia), Rapporteur of the PAP Committee on Agriculture and Rural Economy asked the youth to join the campaign for the ratification of the Malabo Protocol intended to extend the powers of the PAP into a full-fledged legislative organ. ‘’Despite all the initiatives undertaken by the PAP to empower young people to date, a legislative mandate will give the Parliament more authority to promote the African youth agenda on the continent. Therefore, we call on young people to advocate for the ratification of this protocol at country level. It requires a minimum of 28 countries to ratify it before it comes into force.”

Hon. Kone Aboubacar SIDIKI (Cote d’Ivoire), Chairperson of the PAP Committee on Cooperation, International Relations and Conflict Resolution echoed the students’ sentiment on the need for the PAP to be more present on the ground and engage communities on issues facing them including peace and security: “The past two years have seen the PAP hold meetings outside of its headquarters in Midrand, South Africa in a bid to be closer to the people we represent. I agree that we need to intensify these initiatives and engage thoroughly with our youth on each occasion. Young people hold the key to unlocking our potential as a continent and they have a role to play in promoting peace, security and stability.”

Hon. Yousef Mohmmed ALFAKHRI (Libya), Deputy Chairperson of the PAP Caucus on Youth expressed satisfaction at the level of engagement with the youth during the webinar. He also indicated that the Caucus intends to hold further platforms of this nature to ensure that the youth are given the platform they merit.” The PAP Caucus on Youth was created in 2012 to strengthen and consolidate the efforts aimed at giving young Africans a sense of responsibility in driving Africa’s developmental agenda. We are pleased to see that young people are embracing this responsibility and are ready to lead. We will continue to involve them at the highest level as part of the PAP’s activities.”

In his concluding remarks, the Acting Clerk of the PAP Mr. Gali Massa HAROU thanked both the youth and members of Parliament for their contributions:” All the inputs submitted as part of this meeting on how the PAP can best involve the youth will form part of a report to be submitted to members of the PAP for further action.”