The first-ever meeting of COMESA ministers of youth affairs took place, Tuesday, June 22, 2021. Its objective was to review the status of implementation of youth programmes and make policy decisions that will empower young people to meaningfully participate in civic and economic opportunities.
Specifically, the ministers reviewed and adopted a report prepared by technical experts who met last week and came up with several recommendations on how to implement the COMESA Youth Programme. This programme was approved in 2015 to deepen youth participation in socio-economic development and democratic governance.
To enable tracking the implementation, the ministers approved a framework to assist Member States develop their annual reports on youth engagement, participation, and policies. The reports will enable COMESA Secretariat to develop an annual regional report on youth.
The ministers also adopted the findings of baseline studies on youth in Member States, which will provide a framework for analyzing the opportunities and challenges that young people face regarding their participation in socio-economic development and democratic governance.
Egyptian Minister of Youth and Sports, Dr Ashraf Sobhy, who opened and chaired the meeting, noted that the youth have the potential to carry forward the regional integration agenda and urged Member States to domesticate the ministerial decisions at the national and regional level.
“It’s good that the youths are now being discussed at these meeting as they are key in economic development of any country’s economy owing to the fact that they are the majority in the world,” Dr Sobhy said.
Other documents adopted at the meeting included the COMESA Youth Engagement Strategy and the Terms of Reference for the establishment of the COMESA Youth Advisory Panel, and the Recruitment, Deployment and Management System for the youth internship program. Member States agreed to initiate the process of institutionalizing the recruitment practices at national level.
COMESA Secretary General, Ms. Chileshe Kapwepwe said the region should cultivate an enabling environment to empower youths to meaningfully participate in civic and economic opportunities.
“This can only happen by uplifting the youth to a level where they have decision-making power and opportunities in finding solutions to challenges facing their respective countries,” she said.
The meeting appreciated the support from development partners including the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC), the African Union, United Nations Volunteers, and the International Trade Center (ITC).
As a result of these partnerships, several initiatives are underway including the COMESA, African Union/ African Governance Architecture (AU/AGA) youth engagement project. This project is spearheading youth participation in socio-economic development and democratic governance, supported by the SDC.
Among those that also addressed the over 70 delegates from the 21 Member States that attended the meeting were the Rwanda Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon. Rosemary Mbabazi and representatives of the AU/AGA and ITC, Ms. Hagar Azzoz and Ms. Ludmila Azo, respectively.