African Union (AU) Youth Envoy: Harnessing Africa’s Youth Potential

Chido Cleopatra Mpemba discusses the pivotal roles of Africa’s largest population in shaping the future of the continent

Lucky Oluoch
9 Min Read
Diplomat Chido Mpemba at a past function attended by different African presidents.PHOTO/YOUTH ENVOY

In an exclusive interview, AU Youth Envoy, Chido Cleopatra Mpemba, shares her vision and plans for youth empowerment in Africa, and insights on policies, programs, and initiatives that aim to unlock the potential of African youth


In Summary:

  • According to recent data, 60 per cent of Africa’s population is under the age of 25
  • Africa is the youngest continent in the world – with Sub-Saharan Africa being the hub of increasing birth rates
  • It’s estimated that by 2030, the youth will make up 42 per cent of young people globally
  • The AU has acknowledged this potential by having a Youth Envoy – Ms Chido Mpemba – who is working towards leveraging and fostering this massive youth population

Every day, the voices and aspirations of Africa’s youth are gaining increasing significance within the progressive landscape of the African Union (AU).

As the Youth Envoy at the African Union Commission, Mpemba concentrates on youth-related matters, advocating for the interests and addressing the concerns of young people across the African continent.

Interestingly, what actually grabbed focus during this interview, is how—in recent times—the youths have developed an unrivalled concern about the impact of climate change on their future.

According to a 2023 survey by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), young people have clearly urged their governments and organizations to collaborate on climate initiatives, prioritizing engagement in climate-related research and education.

Youth and climate action

Recognizing the same, Mpemba emphasized that at the AU, they recognize the crucial role of young people in climate action and sustainability initiatives, and that they actively involve youth in these efforts through various channels, including capacity development, youth forums, consultations, and partnerships.

AU Youth Envoy Chido Mpemba during a tree planting ceremony in Nairobi's Kibera Slum, alongside residents, as part of the climate actions initiatives to offset carbon footprints. PHOTO/YOUTH ENVOY

“As an office, we have participated in and supported initiatives such as the first-ever Africa Youth Climate Assembly, Africa Youth Delegations to COP meetings, and showcasing innovative initiatives led by young people to tackle climate change,” Mpemba explained.

This approach not only recognizes the importance of youth engagement but also actively involves them in shaping climate policies and actions.

Furthermore, at this year’s African Union Heads of State summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Mpemba’s office launched the #ICanSurvive mental health toolkit for young people. This toolkit addresses five emerging issues in Africa related to mental health, with climate change being one of them.

“At the summit, we introduced the #ICanSurvive mental health toolkit, which aims to support young people in steering through mental health challenges, including those exacerbated by climate change,” Mpemba noted.

She added that climate change multiplies threats to youth mental health, thus through the toolkit, they set out strategies to build resilience in the face of this crisis.

Youth’s potential for sustainable growth

Moreover, given that Africa’s youth constitute a demographic powerhouse, accounting for a substantial portion of the continent’s population (with young people comprising approximately 76 percent of Kenya’s total population), their dynamism and vibrancy hold immense potential for driving sustainable development and growth.

As a result, Mpemba underscored AU’s commitment to harnessing this potential by focusing on initiatives that empower youth entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership.

She stated that they support programs that provide skills training, access to finance, and mentorship opportunities, enabling young Africans to become drivers of change in their communities and beyond.

“We support programs that provide skills training, access to finance, and mentorship opportunities, enabling young Africans to become drivers of change in their communities and beyond,” she highlighted.

Over the past few months, hundreds of young business owners brimming with hope and optimism for how technology can transform their businesses have taken part in AU’s Make Africa digital campaign supported by Google and have received digital skills training.

They are part of Africa’s growing youth population that want to position themselves to benefit from Africa’s digital revolution and establish a strong digital economy with a potential to be worth US $180 billion by 2025.

She observed: “The first event launched on March 23, 2023, when the Office of Youth Envoy collaborated with Google and Creative Hub Ethiopia in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with more than 45 young business owners, managers, entrepreneurs, and students from Burundi, Kenya, the diaspora, and Ethiopia.”

She went on to add that the digital skills campaign is part of the larger African Union’s Digital Transformation strategy and they plan to reach more than 100, 000 young people with digital skills for the creation of jobs this year through a country acceleration strategy across the African continent.

Unemployment menace in Africa

Youth unemployment remains a significant challenge across many African countries, prompting numerous young Africans to seek opportunities abroad, often migrating to European countries in pursuit of better prospects.

Yet, how does the AU confront the underlying drivers of migration, and what initiatives or strategies does it endorse to bolster youth employment prospects in Africa?

Addressing the issue, Mpemba outlined, “Youth unemployment and migration are multifaceted challenges demanding comprehensive solutions. The AU tackles migration’s root causes by advocating for inclusive economic growth, good governance, and peacebuilding efforts continent-wide. In fostering youth employment, we champion policies and initiatives prioritizing job creation, skills development, and entrepreneurship. Through collaborative endeavors with governments, businesses, and civil society, we endeavor to cultivate an environment where young people can flourish and contribute to Africa’s progress.”

She further stated that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) is also a huge opportunity for young people to accelerate Africa’s industrialization and economic transformation through entrepreneurship.

That the implementation of the AFCFTA would increase employment opportunities and wages for unskilled workers and help close the gender wage gap. This would in turn create employment and keep our young people from endangering their life.

“Additionally last year we launched the youth ambassadors in migration project which is in partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM). We are building the capacity of young people to advocate for the ratification of the African Union Protocol on Free Movement of Persons and highlighting the challenges of migration faced by young people across the continent.”

Engaging stakeholders

She shared that the AU normally organizes platforms and committees so as to ensure the youth actively participate in shaping policies and decisions.

Noteworthily, the Youth Envoy spearheaded the first-ever African Union Youth Town Hall meeting during the African Union Heads of State Summit, with a second one scheduled for November this year.

According to Mpemba, the Youth Envoy’s listening tour across Africa facilitated the inclusion of young people’s views and challenges, resulting in ongoing initiatives such as the Make Africa Digital campaign, #ICanSurvive mental health toolkit, Lead(Her)ship Fellowship, and the African Union Education Youth manifesto.

She also pointed out that it is of great essence for governments, civil societies and stakeholders to collaborate so as to effectively address all the youth-related issues.

She emphasized: “The office of the Youth Envoy also engages African youth on the continent and in the diaspora to draw them towards supporting and promoting intergenerational dialogue and concrete action for Africa’s development, as underscored in the African Youth Charter and Agenda 2063.”

Mpemba concluded the interview by bringing attention to the fact that by fostering partnerships and collective action, we work towards creating a conducive environment where young Africans can thrive and fulfill their potential.

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Lucky Oluoch is a multifaceted prolific Gen-Z journalist and communication guru who is pursuing a B.A in Communication and with extensive experience in the field. Lucky's work has been featured in prominent Kenyan media outlets such as Radio Africa Group, NationAfrica, Tuko Media and Mediamax Network Ltd (where he also served as an Acting Sub-Editor and Opinion Editor). EMAIL: oneolwoch@gmail.com