President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan

President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has described the youths of Africa as the continent’s greatest assets for achieving its sustainable development, just he called for greater commitment from African leaders in productively engaging them and harnessing their immense potentials for the prosperity of the continent.

Contributing to the discuss “accelerating youth empowerment for sustainable development” at the 17th ordinary session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government at the ongoing African Union Summit, President Jonathan said Africa must harness the boundless and innovative energies of its youths into a positive force for change and development.

“The youths are the greatest assets of any nation. Not only are they future leaders, they are indeed agents for peace, stability and prosperity of Africa. We must continue to scale-up efforts towards the Pan African Youth Union and encourage the participation of African youths in national and continental dialogue on development initiatives and policies,” Jonathan stated.

He reminded the summit that Africa has a huge youthful population of 600 million out of the continent’s one billion population, going by a growing increase in the population of young people globally where persons below age 35 constitute above 60 per cent of the world’s population.

“This is the demographic profile that confronts us today, and it represents a huge challenge to transform this large and potentially powerful force for the development of our continent,” Jonathan stated.

Lamenting the absence of sustained engagement of the continent’s youths which has lured them into various anti-social behaviours and criminal acts, President Jonathan harped for an urgent intervention by African leaders to productively engage the youths through capacity, and protect them from the hazards of irregular migration to other continents and the attendant loss of their useful potentials.

“We owe ourselves a duty to arrest the risks and negative cultural exposures that our youth are subjected to due to the perilous journeys they undertake across the high seas in search of the so-called greener pastures.”

President Jonathan listed steps being taken by Nigeria to integrate the youths in the process of governance to include the adoption of the National Youth Policy which provides the framework for government to support youth development, as well as the ratification of the African Youth Charter, which takes into cognizance African values as they pertains to youth development.

As the debates continue at the ongoing summit, African leaders who took turns to speak including President Amadou Toure of Mali and Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, were unanimous on the need for greater integration of the youths in political dialogue and development initiatives on the continent. Representatives of various national youth platforms are also contributing to the ongoing discuss at the AU summit.

President Jonathan participated at the opening session of the AU summit earlier this morning, which also featured former Head of State, Gen. Abdusalami Abubakar, and former Ghanaian President, Jerry Rawlings, as well as other representatives of various international bodies as observers.