Alliance Africa hosts co-operative youth conference

The event looked at how co-ops could harness the potential of the continent’s huge young population to drive sustainable growth and development

The International Co-operative Alliance’s Africa region held its second youth conference towards the end of last month, in Goma, DR Congo, looking at ways to harness innovation among the continent’s young people.

The continent has experienced a ‘youth bulge’ in its population, and this demographic shift has brought what some analysts believe to be the world’s youngest population. This brings opportunities for Africa, with a young population correlated with economic development. The World Bank it could bring an 11-15% growth in GDP between 2011 and 2030.

To explore this potential, the event brought 104 participants gathered on 21 September, most of them youth co-op representatives from four sub-regions of Africa – representing Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Mauritius, Angola, Ghana and DR Congo.

The one-day event was open and free to all event to promote the visibility of the co-op movement. It was co-funded by the European Union under the ICA-EU partnership project, Co-operatives in Development – People Centred Businesses in Action.

Organisers said they want to give young people in Africa a platform so they could call for an enabling environment where they could take part in the socio-economic development of Africa through co-operatives.

With the theme “Harnessing Innovation among Youth through Co-operatives”, the conference gave young people the chance to network with each other, with co-operative members and development partners, to further the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030. Special focus was paid to goal 4 – relating to education; goal 8 – employment; and goal 9 – innovation.

The conference looked at studies from Africa, Nepal and Japan looking at how co-ops create work opportunities and improve working conditions by helping young people find work, experience and training.

Calls were made to the governments on inclusion, and to Alliance Africa itself, and its development partners, on advocacy and engagement.

Participants agreed to push harder for talks with the government, civil society and other stakeholders to overcome the challenges facing young people – of unemployment, underemployment, disempowerment and disengagement.

The event’s communiqué and policy position paper will be presented at the Africa-EU Youth Summit in Abidjan, Ivory Coast in November 2017 as a precursor to the African Union heads of state meeting.