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ECOSOC Youth Forum Side Event on the Role of the Private Sector for Youth Empowerment in Africa

Votre Excellence Ambassadeur Omar Hilale je vous remercie pour l'invitation et de nous avoir convoqués pour ce sujet important pour la jeunesse africaine. Shukran.

Your excellencies Permanent Representatives of Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal Deputy Minister for Youth and Sports of Ghana

Excellencies Ladies and Gentlemen and young people

It makes me proud as the African Union Youth Envoy, to see many member states in Africa engaging in this topic not just the private sector. Because employment and governance are interlinked even though we do not expect governments to create all the jobs but we definitely expect them to create the enabling environment for job creation which can allow private sector to thrive in a fair ecosystem.

I would like to also command OCP Group for their brilliant work especially on innovation with youth as partners, you are setting the example for others on how to engage youth and we look forward to working with you.

The conversation of future of work cannot be divorced from technology because the future is digital or the future is young and that’s why I’d like to bring to the conversation here the importance of accessibility in Africa.

The reality is 70% africa's population is offline. We can talk about digital transformation as an innovative force but digital for African youth is also a closed exclusive space. The power of information is vastly unequal, depending on who can access information. Those who are disconnected can be invisible outside the radius of the digital revolution.Those of us who have this access, then have the responsibility and opportunity to make a difference.

And if this conversation is gendered, we will realize that women have much less access to internet and technology and young women are underrepresented in the tech industry because of structural patriarchal systems that leave them out of the education and the digital space.

The question remains how do we close the digital divide? African youth are asking your excellencies, are we ready? is our education system ready? are our institutions ready? is our leadership ready?

The right to accessibility for youth employment and empowerment in private sector requires a political will and responsibility of both politicians and businesses. To be truly beneficial to everyone, technology needs to be accessible and democratized.

There are amazing tech solutions in Africa but they’re going ahead of policy. So tech solutions have to be operating within the ecosystem of our institutions in Africa while our leadership needs to see them as opportunities.

At the African Union, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) just entered into force, which presents the immense opportunity for integration and digital trade but that should not be a platform for making youth more online consumers than digital traders. It should be a space where we are benefiting just like we contribute to its growth. Because in this inequality, again young women will suffer the most because women are underrepresented in the fields where new jobs are to be created. Digital trade is largely inevitable, the question is how exactly can it be handled in a way that delivers development in Africa, that empowers the most vulnerable, and with youth at the centre of it rather than ending up being just transactions.


The future of work needs to be about dignity, because young people don't want just jobs but jobs with dignity, the future of work needs to bring about curiosity and passion to explore knowledge and learning from a completely different experiences. Because our generation is the most connected, innovative and better educated than other generations, we should focus on building a world that is collaborative, diverse, inclusive and emotionally intelligent.

I invite our African leadership and governments to embrace this digital revolution and start employing people who understand how to use technology. We need to be ready for this change, and I think our generation is excited about all kinds of changes because we are changemakers and should be able to develop a right intention for making our lives more efficient and making lower impact on the environment.

Our commitment as youth, we are ready to co-lead with you governments, private sector and partners the solutions that will enable us to build the Africa We Want.

Thank you,

Ms. Aya Chebbi African Union Commission Chairperson’s Special Envoy on Youth

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