Hundreds of youth leaders gathered in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso on 20 December for the Third Pan-African Youth Leadership Summit. The meeting is focusing on how young people can contribute to a post-2015 development agenda and reach the UNAIDS vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.
The three-day meeting was organised by the West African Youth Leadership Network for the United Nations (ROJALNU-OMD) in cooperation with UNAIDS. Burkina Faso’s Prime Minister, Luc Adolphe Tiao, inaugurated the summit on behalf of President Blaise Compaoré together with UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé.
“More than any other key group, young people are the chief architects and master builders of Africa’s future,” said Mr Sidibé. “By 2035, Africa‘s working population will be the largest in the world. This means the world’s principal labour force will be African.”
Speaking on behalf of President Blaise Compaoré, Prime Minister, Luc Adolphe Tiao said that Africa will never win without investing in its young people.
While young people are Africa’s hope, they are also a major challenge for the continent, which needs to invest rapidly and strategically in young people so that they can reach their potential.
Mr Sidibé emphasized ways for ensuring that young people become a positive force for change. He said the continent must invest in education and job training, particularly in a new economy based on information and communication technology. He stressed at the same time it was important to implement social protection networks to reduce the insecurity of young people and stop them from falling into the grips of alcohol and drug addiction. Finally, he called for a new social movement with greater participation from young people on the debate about development and social justice.
The President of the Commission of the West African Economic and Monetary Union, Cheik Hadjibou Soumaré said that he fully agreed with UNAIDS on the importance of young people and their engagement in the HIV response.
President of the West African Youth Leadership Network, Alioune Gueye said that UNAIDS three zero strategy was an indispensable part of any reflection on a post-2015 development agenda and thanked Mr Sidibé for taking young people into account.
The Summit is organized in the overall framework of CrowdOutAIDS, an innovative youth-led policy project initiated by UNAIDS. Leveraging crowdsourcing technology and new media tools, the project enabled young people to develop recommendations to work more effectively with each other in the AIDS response.
Globally, an estimated 4.6 million young people (15-24 years of age) are living with HIV. About 2300 young people are infected with HIV each day.