The Arab and African Youth Platform kicks off in Aswan on Monday and will run until 18 March after President Abdel-Fattah El Sisi announced the city as the capital for African youth during the last World Youth Forum.
In its first edition, the conference aims to shed light on potential and current advancements in research, healthcare, technology and science in the Arab World and Africa. Participants representing different countries from both regions hope to find solutions to region-specific and international challenges.
According to the World Youth Forum’s website, “The Arab and African Youth Platform will hold various sessions, workshops, and roundtable, which will bridge the gap between our young promising leaders and top policy and decision makers.”
United Nations’ Commission of Africa (UNCOA) revealed that the youngest population in the world exists in Africa and its growing at a high rate. In 2017, around 41 percent of the continents population was under 15 years old and 19.4 percent were between the ages of 15 and 24, “Africa’s Youth and Prospects for Inclusive Development” study reported.
“It is clear then that by sheer numbers alone, the choices, opportunities and constraints of young people will play a major role in shaping Africa’s development,” the study explained.
The Middle East and North Africa is considered “the most youthful region in the world” with 28 percent of the Middle East’s population is aged between 15 and 29, according to Youth Policy.
The WYF believes that “Youth in the Arab region and Africa share a lot of history, as well as present circumstances, this makes the cooperation between them essential for the development of their countries. Youth in both regions have grown to prove that they are capable of developing a promising vision of integration between both regions.”
Youth policy said that the enrollment rates at educational institutions are “high” with almost universal access to primary level education and 70% enrollment in secondary school.
The American University in Cairo released a study called “Arab Youth: The Challenges of Education, Employment and Civic Participation”, which states that the current youth segment in the Arab World is attending and other educational institutions at a larger percentage than their parents’ generation.
While the literacy rates and access to educational institutes throughout the region is increasing in both the Middle East and Africa, one major problem remains: youth unemployment. Youth unemployment is the highest amongst Arab youth.
“The economic difficulty facing young Arabs in their transition to adulthood is further exacerbated by the blocking of channels of civic engagement and their exclusion from the decision-making process. While social media has been celebrated as part of the Arab Spring, access to this tool is limited to the urban and educated,” Arab Youth: The Challenges of Education, Employment and Civic Participation study states.
Former Minister of Youth, Alieddin Hilal, who is also currently a political science professor at Cairo University, told Ahram Online that the youth population in the Arab region and African countries youths “share a similar background and face many of the same conditions,” which will facilitate alliance between the two groups.
The platform hopes to bring these challenges forward and create solutions with Egypt becoming the common denominator to facilitate discussions between both the Arab and African youth. It is also a great opportunity for a cross-cultural experience.
Since entrepreneurship has been the number job creator solving a big percentage of youth unemployment especially in this region, the conference is holding two workshops titled “How to be a Successful Entrepreneur” and “Social Entrepreneurship from an African Perspective”.
For the first time since its foundation in 2002, Egypt has taken over the presidency of the African Union this year. Since then, President El Sisi has been making efforts to enhance Egypt’s relationship with African countries.
Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS) launched a new website in six languages -English, Arabic, French, Swahili and Hausa – to improve relations and communication with other Africa countries.
This is the largest ‘serious attempt’ to communicate with Africans in their local languages, according to journalist and current Chairman of the State Information Service Diaa Rashwan.