Ethiopia

Youth leaders speak out at African Development Forum

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© UNICEF video
Hundreds of delegates, including young people from around the continent, arrived in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, for the African Development Forum.

By Sarah Crowe

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, 16 November 2006 – The fifth African Development Forum kicked off today with a youthful perspective on leadership, as hundreds of delegates arrived here in the Ethiopian capital to face tomorrow’s challenges.

In what was likely to be one of his last official visits to Africa, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan – a son of the continent himself – called on leaders to do much more to meet development goals. But he praised the peer review mechanism through which African leaders evaluate themselves.

“We have laid a foundation for development in only 10 years but it’s no more than that,” said Mr. Annan. “Development is never a gift bestowed from outside. We have to get our own house in order, and those African leaders walking the walk and not just talking the talk are still the exception.”

Building on that foundation, and making the Millennium Development Goals a reality, is largely now up to the next generation.

Part of the solution

Edwina Orowee, 25, a delegate from Kenya, brought a volley of applause from the Forum when she criticized adult leaders for paying lip service to young people but being out of touch with their reality. Before they’re even adults themselves, she said, most of Africa’s youth are working and have become parents, and many fall prey to diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

“We have come because we want to build a new Africa, an Africa free of HIV/AIDS,” asserted Edwina. “The famous ‘ABC’ [Abstinence, Be faithful and Consistent condom use] is hardly on option for Africa’s youth. Abstinence does not put bread on the table.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF video
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on African leaders to do more to meet development goals.

“The young people have to be part and parcel of the solution,” she added. “We can create an AIDS-free generation, but there’s got to be real commitment to work with young people – not just promises that only exist on paper about the young people being the leaders of tomorrow.”

‘Africa Unite!’

But the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, threw the challenge back to Africa’s youth.

“It’s easy for you, the youth, to blame us for not being courageous, but in the final analysis you, the youth, must not become a victim. See what you can do and start with that, ” said Mr. Zenawi.

With two-thirds of the continent’s population under 25 years of age, Africa’s youth have their work cut for them – and one of their greatest obstacles is the AIDS pandemic. At Ethiopia’s launch of the UNITE FOR CHILDREN  UNITE AGAINST AIDS campaign over a year ago, young people were placed at the forefront of efforts to halt the spread of the disease, which seriously hinders social progress in communities across Africa.

As a large crowd of young people marched through the streets of Addis on Wednesday, chanting “Africa Unite!” in one voice, it gave hope to many that the youth of this vast continent will continue their quest for development.


 

 

Video

16 November 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Sarah Crowe reports from the African Development Forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
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