COMESA launched the first youth leadership summit dubbed “Be Relevant Leadership Youth Summit”, in Lusaka, on 12 March 2020 as part of the youth day celebrations. The Summit focused on enhancing youth participation in the attainment of peace, unity and security with an eye on the 2021 General Elections in Zambia.
The Youth Summit is one of the activities under the COMESA – African Union- African Governance Architecture (AU-AGA) joint project on youth engagement in democratic governance and socio-economic development in Africa. The project is supported by the Swiss Development Cooperation Agency.
Zambia Vice President, Mrs. Inonge Wina who was represented by Home Affairs Minister Steven Kapyongo officially launched the Summit. She welcomed the initiative of bringing together young men and women to participate in leadership and especially in Zambia’s electoral processes.
“We all need to ensure that peace, security and stability are maintained before, during and after elections. And the youth have a big role to play, especially you, young men and women who are leading other youth associations and networks,” she said.
One of the key objectives of this initiative is to provide young people with a platform through which they can contribute their creative and innovative ideas to improve national and continental democratic governance and socio-economic development.
It is expected that the Summit will expand from being a national youth event to a regional gathering under the auspices of COMESA, where young people from across the 21 Member States will come together to contribute in shaping the region’s destiny.
Speaking at the same event, COMESA Assistant Secretary General in Charge of Programmes Ambassador Kipyego Cheluget underscored the need for better strategies to engage and empower the young people.
He said: “Empowering the youth is not a choice but a must as they represent a demographic asset which can also become a demographic bomb if governments and the private sector do not invest more in them.”
In 2015, COMESA Council of Ministers endorsed the COMESA Youth Program whose implementation in ongoing. It includes engaging the private sector, civil society organizations and other organizations on possible partnership for the implementation of the Program.