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PAP President Charges Youth to be Driving Force for AfCFTA Implementation

The President of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) has encouraged the youth to be the driving force behind the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). H.E. Chief Fortune Z. Charumbira called on young people to tap into opportunities offered by intra-African trade, and play a leading role in accelerating Africa’s industrialisation and economic transformation.

The President of the Continental Parliament was addressing students gathered at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) on the occasion of the 2023 African Union (AU) Model Summit under the theme of the Year for 2023, “Acceleration of the African Continental Free Trade Area Implementation.”

Convened by the African Union Southern Africa Regional Office (AU-SARO), the AU Model Summit is essentially a simulation exercise of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government Proceedings. As a student-based activity, it involves students being assigned to the African Union Member States in groups of five representing different delegations of the 55 Member States.

The objective of the Model Summit is to sensitise the citizenry, especially African youth on the continental integration policies, programs, and what they mean to the ordinary citizenry. The platform is further intended to familiarise participants on the operations and procedures of the AU policy organs and their decision-making processes.

H.E. Chief Charumbira said that young people must make their voice heard to ensure that the implementation process of the AfCFTA is responsive to their needs, as the future of the African continent. The leader of Africa’s Parliament believes that harnessing the potential of the landmark continental agreement will help the youth overcome difficulties in accessing formal employment and decent jobs.

The President further pledged the PAP’s commitment to ensuring that the youth fully play their role and reap the benefits of what he described as one of the most important African projects to date.

“I am pleased to say that the PAP can and should play an instrumental role in driving youth inclusion and participation in continental policies and programmes in general and in the implementation of the AfCFTA in particular. One of the primary objectives of the PAP as enunciated in Rule 4 of the PAP Rules of Procedure is to facilitate the effective implementation of the policies and objectives of the African Union. The PAP is indeed intended as a platform for African citizens, especially the youth to make contributions to decision-making on the problems and challenges facing the continent,” said H.E. Chief Charumbira.

He added: “You must insist that you are part of the action, do not be bystanders. As your Parliament, we exist to ensure that your concerns are considered by the decision-making structures of our Union. Africa has the world's youngest population, with over 400 million young people aged 15 to 35 years. To galvanise Africa's accelerated economic growth agenda, the youth must be a prime anchor of the AfCFTA. In that regard, we must include the youth in all facets of the AfCFTA implementation.”

H.E. Chief Charumbira identified the production capability of the African continent as an area requiring the youth’s intervention. The leader of the PAP called for the ingenuity, proactiveness and passion of young people to reduce Africa’s dependency on raw material exports and imports, a sine qua non for the successful implementation of the AfCFTA.

“Africa imports billions of dollars’ worth of products that can be produced locally utilising the continent’s abundant resources. As you continue your studies, you must focus on how to create opportunities for production, and how to stimulate demand among African countries in order to unlock the potential of intra-trade on the continent. The AfCFTA is aiming to address this challenge. If we get it right, we will lift millions of people out of poverty especially by empowering youth to change the continent’s business environment.”

Finally, the leader of Africa’s premier parliamentary forum said that young people must dare to take charge now as he called on governments to deliberately include youths in policy and decision-making platforms, integrating their needs into trade policies, enhancing their participation in cross-border trade.

“You are not the leaders of tomorrow; you are leaders in training. You must take the bull by the horns and insist on being part of the action today. In this regard, I applaud the training that the AU-SARO is providing in collaboration with tertiary institutions such as UJ , and I hope you will use it in your lifetime for the greater good of the citizens of our respective countries and the peoples of Africa. This platform is critically important not only in raising awareness among our youths on the operations, working modalities, policies and programmes of the AU and its Organs, but also in inspiring our youth to possibly pursue a career path as policy makers and future leaders," H.E. Chief Charumbira concluded.

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