|© UNICEF Japan/2008|
|Youths in Tokyo connect virtually to their peers in Ghana during the TICAD IV Youth Dialogue.|
By Mihoko Nakagawa
TOKYO, Japan, 27 May 2008 – As a lead-up to the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV), youths from Africa and Asia came together to share their perspectives on the theme of a ‘Vibrant Africa’ yesterday.
At the TICAD IV Youth Dialogue, over 200 youths from Ghana, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Japan, South Korea and Viet Nam connected virtually through a videoconferencing system.
The two-and-a-half-hour dialogue – supported by UNICEF, the World Bank and Tokyo Development Learning Centre – aimed to identify youth perspectives on challenges and expectations for sustainable and inclusive growth in Africa, as well as facilitate the exchange of viewpoints between African and Asian youth.
Bridges of friendship
The dialogue featured various presentations intended to inspire and promote the exchange of viewpoints between the youths from various countries.
During a presentation on boosting economic growth in Africa, Daniel Welwel of Tanzania said: “Is Africa poor? Is Tanzania really poor? Overwhelming evidence suggests that we are not poor. In any case, poverty is state of mind that, if accepted, will be real, but if rejected and squarely fought, will prove to be false.”
Young people from Japan highlighted the importance of world-wide youth partnership for Africa’s development. “Today Africa still seems somewhere far away. However, bridges of friendship are sure to bring about changes,” said Sunao Watanabe.
The dialogue was an eye-opening experience for the participating youths, who learned about the practices and prevailing issues in other parts of the world.
“Africa is one big continent, and there is a diversity of culture. We gain knowledge through continuous dialogues,” concluded UNICEF’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Esther Guluma.
‘Actors for development’
Young people represent a large portion of Africa’s population, and they have the potential to be the engine that drives Africa’s development.
“Youth represent the most important component of the population. We are actors for development,” said Eugene Badji of Senegal.
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Youssou N’Dour, also of Senegal, made a surprise appearance at the dialogue. “Youths must be in all decision-making, including the decisions that leaders make for the future,” he said.
Also in attendance were Japanese finalists from the Junior 8 (J8) Summit – an annual forum where young people from around the world meet to share their concerns and propose possible solutions to G8 leaders and the world community.
In July of this year, the J8 youths will meet in Hokkaido, Japan.
“Conferences, like today’s should be held more often for youths of the world so that they feel more connected and closer to each other,” said Shanon Southwick, one of the J8 finalists from Japan. “It was a great opportunity that closed the gap between Japan and Africa and made me feel that Africa really is not that far away.”