Source: The Department of International Relations and Cooperation
Title: SA: Fransman: Address by the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, at the opening of the Pan Africa Youth Union Executive Committee
Members of The Pan African Youth Union
Ladies and gentlemen
Yesterday we witnessed three significant events: National Women’s Day, The United Kingdom (UK) Riots and the return of heroes from war and famine struck Somalia. It is indeed food for thought that in all three these developments Youth played a significant role. I was particularly inspired by the example of a young South African doctor who gave up the comfort of his medical practice to be part of the Gift of the Givers disaster relief mission and experienced first-hand what a difference it made when we as Africans lived out Ubuntu and cared for each other’s welfare and destiny.
This is the backdrop against which I commend the Executive Committee of the Pan African Youth Union for convening this most important meeting. The lesson we can learn from the experience I just narrated is that our positions in life, regardless of where we find ourselves must and can never be self-serving only. This Executive Committee therefore is a platform and basis for dialogue and action. The young people of African rely on you to go and reach beyond mere mundane banter –keeping minutes but losing hours-Africa and our youth in particular cannot afford that.
I am encouraged by the fact that, we have the potential to build an extremely formidable and influential youth formation in the region that could meaningfully contribute to strengthening democracy, openness, stability and development
Ladies and gentlemen, the dramatic changes sweeping through the Middle East and North Africa region will have a more enduring impact on global security. The big question is of course what will endure from this experience as we are critically aware that that it is the youth of North Africa who led the popular revolution against the repressive and autocratic governments. It was because of the intransigencies of these governments that the youth in that part of our continent were inspired to collectively create a formidable force to put an ultimate end to regimes that showed little respect for human rights and dignity. What are the implications for youth activism elsewhere on the continent and in the world?
Ladies and gentlemen, I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that the North African Youth did was motivated by the drive to create a better life and a better future. That is a sentiment and motivation fully supported by the Pan African Youth Union and what it stands for. I am sure that the Pan African Youth Union will continue to draw inspiration from this revolutionary experience and will in turn inspire other groupings of youth associations all over the continent to actively participation in all these struggles waged on the continent in search for liberation and a better future. This was indeed the case in the past for the liberation of the continent, as it the case today and will be so tomorrow in the struggle for peace, democracy, and sustained development in Africa.
It gives me a sense of pride to be addressing the only Pan African Platform of youth organisations recognised by the African Union as a focal point to work in the fields of youth policies and youth work development that is clearly set in the African Youth Charter. One of the critical success factors for this formation is adequate investment into capacity building as Africa’s renaissance cannot be realised if adequate investment is not made in the youth who constitute more than half of the African population.
Ladies and gentlemen, having said that we know that:
• at least 70% of voters in Africa are youth
• 60% of Youth in Africa are unemployed
• 85% of soldiers or people involved in liberation struggles in Africa are youth?
Research has it that persons aged 16 to 34 play a significant role in social-political and economic development of their respective countries. However, can we say with full confidence that Africa has contributed meaningfully to youth policies? Research has further shown that our youth are not fully considered when governments make their decisions and allocation of developmental initiatives.
Our experience with the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) in South Africa is a good model of government investment in youth and youth structures– I therefore encourage other governments to follow suit, and this can possibly be through the voice of the Pan African Youth Union (PYU).
There is an urgent need now more than ever before to establish independent and practical structures to empower youth across Africa. This is the change that our youth yearn for, this is change they need the most – indeed this change that you have longed.
The work of the PYU bears evidence to the vision and dreams of our fore-bearers. I know that you are encouraged to discharge your work with dignity and pride, knowing that you stand on the shoulders of formidable leaders who have tirelessly and unreservedly strived to have one Africa - this, despite colonial pressure.
The work you do today was indeed the dream of our African icons-the vision of Nkwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, Jomo Kenyata, Kenneth Kaunda, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Nelson Mandela – these activists need special salutation. Long live to those who are still in our midst and may the souls of those no longer with us rest in peace.
I know that the Pan African Youth Union (PAYU) as an initiative of African youth that cherishes a continent where people of all ages live in harmony with equal treatment and access to opportunities and state resources. This requires great vigilance in order to ensure that we put an end to the economic injustice experienced by youth.
To us any form of injustice, whether designed by black or whites, remains an injustice. PYU remains the first of the kind to be implemented, should be at the fore front of advocating youth activism. In economic transformation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Now, moving further down South, to South Africa.
On 16 June 1976, our youth suffered a great loss under the apartheid government. On 16 June 2011, our youth have more resilience, hope and inspiration in the future of this country and our continent. It must however be pointed out that the economic emancipation of blacks, and our youth in particular, remains a sore point of our struggle for economic liberation – a driver of social transformation.
It is important that in addressing social transformation issues, we should not divert from dealing with the major economic, particularly the realisation of Economic Freedom in Our Lifetime.
It is by no means a coincidence that today that we engage on a subject which is not only close to our hearts, but that which holds great potential in advancing and determining the destiny of our youth – economic emancipation of our youth is what we call for – and this should be a resounding call - for the time is now.
In order to facilitate economic access for youth it is critical that PYU plays a role in “shaping them for battles ahead”. We must recognise the impact of economic empowerment of youth on our society in general. Our youth must play a strategic role in driving this economy to greater heights. Excluding the youth from participating in major economic activities must be something of the past and can only lead to disaster.
The youth is integral to the prosperity of our country and continent. Therefore, any action by government and its agencies, including action and intervention by the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) should be cognisant of the developmental implications of a marginalised youth.
Ladies and gentlemen, when the new government came to power after South Africa’s first democratic elections in April 1994, it faced daunting challenges of severe poverty and inequality, economic stagnation and human rights abuse and an apartheid debt of R270 billion. Cognisant of these challenges, the new government had to fulfil its mandate to the people. The new government had to put into place corrective measures to address these challenges which were constantly viewed as impediments to development – especially the economic emancipation of blacks.
Recognising the need to put into place strategic mechanisms to address the economic emancipation of blacks, government was also cognisant of the fact that the South African population is mainly made up of young people – a significant proportion of the population is made up of youth. The population estimates indicate that the youth population group, year on year, has been growing higher than the national average population growth meaning that there are more people joining this age group than national population growth average – yet very few have had an opportunity to participate in economic activities.
Given that the South African population is young, and that this population will continue to grow, it is necessary that we stress the need to empower our youth by all means necessary to secure a prosperous South Africa. And this can only be achieved through youth involvement in economic activities.
This gathering here today must give further impetus to the momentum and energy that has already been generated. It must also ensure that all of us share a common political commitment for the achievement of the goals we have set for our youth – but, they too should be an integral part of these goals –as our slogan says: “nothing about us, without us”.
Despite the immense challenges and the daunting poverty our young people face, we can draw inspiration from the ability of young people to shape a new destiny. We are reminded of this reality by the very compelling poem by William Ernest Henley, titled “Invictus”:
“Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Despite our general optimism that our youth, just like a phoenix, shall raise from the ashes, we note with great concern some of the biggest challenges facing them. Youth headed households, health and wellbeing, education and skills development, as well as youth unemployment remains today impediments to youth development – especially their participation in growing this economy. We need to be in full agreement that, these challenges, if not adequately addressed, will remain a serious challenge and has the potential of erupting into an “Arab spring” or even the escalation of violence such as that we are witnessing in the United Kingdom today.
We need to leave this gathering determined to ensure that our youth receive further support from our collective efforts from – government, its agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other related structures - as a true demonstration of the fact that their economic emancipation is underwritten by the principles of co-responsibility and partnership.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As we reflect on the state of youth entrepreneurship in our country, we would also like to take this opportunity to commend the NYDA for the sterling work it has done in advancing youth development through guidance and support for youth initiatives across sectors of society. We recognise the efforts by NYDA to embark on initiatives that seek to advance the economic development of young people. We welcome its initiative to develop and coordinate the implementation of the Integrated Youth Development Plan and Strategy for the youth of this country.
Without any hesitation, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation is also going to contribute to this program through our missions abroad to get international partnerships which will contribute towards success of youth development programmes.
I have noted with keen interested, the framework of your commissions and the kind of issues you have raised throughout these fruitful discussions – I commend you for the fine selection of subjects for discussion. Once more, this confirms your commitment and selflessness in ensuring that the economic emancipation of our youth becomes a reality.
Our commitment and collective call should determine the benefits we envisage to derive for the outcomes of these commissions.
It gives us great pleasure that the commissions you have selected indeed touch on pertinent issues that reside within the competencies of Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO). The first Commission will focus on “The processes and reform of the United Nations Security Council”; second will focus on “Conflict and Peace in Africa: The Sudan”; emphasis on South Africa’s role; the third Commission will address “The role of South Africa’s Participation in formations like India-Brazil-South Africa ( IBSA) and Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC), in addressing the challenges facing South Africa’s Youth”; the fourth Commission will touch on “Climate Change: COP 17”, and the fifth and final Commission will be on “Opportunities and Challenges of Social Networks”.
Given the issues we hope to deliberate on today, there is a greater need now than ever before to be inspired. This inspiration will without doubt give us a sense of responsibility to work harder – commit ourselves more than ever before in achieving the goals we set today – convince ourselves that our collective desire and common interest shall be a driving force to achieve our ambitions.
In conclusion, I would like to impress upon all of us that the entire world is looking up to South Africa on this day. There is greater interest on what we do now than ever before. We must therefore act in a manner that justifies our commitment to ensuring that this day remains one of the most important days in our calendar. A day in which we remember those who have laid down their lives for our political freedom – our economic emancipation. I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever that we shall adopt a common sense of responsibility and commitment to fulfil the promises we have made today.
I would like to call upon all of us to come out of this meeting united like never before, re-energised to ensure that our efforts to create a better life for all becomes a reality.
I thank you!