SADC Ministers of Youth meet in Windhoek, Namibia

The Ministers responsible for Youth from the Southern African Development Community (SADC),) met on 23 and 24 May 2019 in Windhoek, Namibia, at the Safari Hotel and deliberated on youth issues aimed at improving the quality of life for young people as well as providing a conducive environment for youth empowerment. The meeting discussed thematic areas related to regional policy development and strengthening of institutional arrangements for advancing youth matters.

The Ministerial meeting was hosted by the Government of the Republic of Namibia, and was attended by SADC Ministers responsible for Youth or their representatives from Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Also in attendance were representatives from United Nations Agencies, International Cooperating Partners (ICPs), including among others the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), International Labour Organization (ILO), African Union Commission, Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI), Media in Education Trust (MIET)-Africa and Child Rights Network for Southern Africa (CRNSA). Youth delegates from the Namibia National Youth Council represented the SADC Youth Forum.

In his keynote address, the Chairperson and Minister of Sport, Youth and National Service of the Republic of Namibia, Honourable Erastus Uutoni, noted the progress made in the implementation of the theme of the 38th SADC Summit on promoting infrastructure development and youth empowerment for sustainable development. The Minister urged Member States to intensify efforts for the region to reap the youth demographic dividend through employment creation and youth empowerment, in line with the 2015 SADC Declaration on Youth Development and Empowerment. In this regard, the Minister underscored the need to embrace new ideas and approaches to address the challenges affecting the youth in the region given that little progress was being realised.

The SADC Deputy Executive Secretary for Regional Integration, Dr. Thembinkosi Mhlongo, stressed the need for youth to be fully integrated in the process of industrialisation in the region, as advanced by the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap (2015-2063). He highlighted the regional industrialisation priorities in agro-processing, mineral beneficiation as well as pharmaceuticals and emphasised the need for Member States to make greater progress in building digital and knowledge economies in which youth can easily participate. He also emphasised the need for the region to make deliberate efforts aimed at amplifying youth voices through their representation and participation in decision-making structures.

The Chairperson of the Namibia National Youth Council, Mr. Josef van der Westhuizen, represented the SADC Youth Forum and presented the Forum's report of 13-14 December 2018, in which youth from the region called for the strengthening of youth coordination structures that can facilitate effective youth involvement in development processes in SADC. He outlined that young people, despite the myriad of challenges they were facing, including high unemployment, they remained committed to playing their part in the search for lasting solutions. The Ministers welcomed the report and directed the Secretariat to take it into account in the implementation of youth programmes, and in the same vein urged Member States to implement the recommendations at national level.

The Ministers noted and received the report on the implementation of the 38th SADC Summit Theme, which highlighted that various SADC sectors had mainstreamed youth dialogues and youth participation in different programmes, including in the Agriculture, Infrastructure, as well as Trade and Industry sectors. The Ministers urged Member States to continue implementing the 38th SADC Summit Theme at national level.

Furthermore, the Ministers approved a Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting Framework for Orphans, Vulnerable Children and Youth (OVCY) which was developed under a project supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and REPSSI. The framework will facilitate the tracking of national, regional and global trends to inform the development of effective interventions, policies, strategies, programs and priorities for orphans and other vulnerable children and youth in SADC.

The Ministers also directed the Secretariat to develop a comprehensive SADC Youth Development Programme, through which concrete and coordinated interventions can be put in place to address issues related to youth employment, entrepreneurship, education and empowerment. To facilitate progress in this regard, the Ministers approved the establishment of a Working Group of Experts on Youth to oversee the development of the new regional programme before their next meeting.

The Ministers noted a Report on the Status of African Youth presented by the African Union (AU) Commission as part of the implementation of the AU Roadmap on harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in youth, which highlighted that youth unemployment continued to be one of the biggest challenges on the continent. Ministers also noted a Report by the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work, which emphasised a human centred approach to addressing challenges related to technological, climate and demographic transformations.

The United Republic of Tanzania, as incoming Chair of SADC, pledged to champion youth development during their chairpersonship of SADC, with a focus on accelerating the implementation of SADC priorities and strategies on employment creation.

The Ministers commended the Republic of Namibia for its warm hospitality and for successfully hosting the Ministerial meeting.

Source: Southern African Development Community (SADC)