A flag-raising ceremony was held in Accra yesterday to commemorate the African Union (AU) Day, with a call for robust national policies to harness the potential of the youth for sustainable development.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Mrs Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, who made the call while delivering the keynote address at the event, said investing in the youth was the way forward to reduce the numerous national and regional development challenges.
“As leaders and policy framers, we need to make a clear statement and focus our collaborative attention on unleashing the energies of African youth towards national development because they are the backbone of our countries,” she said.
The ceremony, which was held at the forecourt of the State House, brought together state officials, heads of the security agencies, members of the Diplomatic Corps, traditional rulers and a cross-section of the public.
Key personalities who graced the occasion included the Minister of Defence, Mr Dominic Nitiwul; the Chief of the Defence Staff, Major General Obed Asamoah Akwa, and the Chairman of the Council of State and Omanhene of the Juaben Traditional Area, Nana Otuo Siriboe II.
Ms Botchwey led the way to hoist the flag of Ghana, while the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, Mrs Pavelyn Tendai Musaka, who is also the Zimbabwean High Commissioner to Ghana, hoisted the AU flag.
The Foreign Affairs Minister described the theme for the event: “Harnessing the demographic dividends through investment in the youth”, as apt, stressing that there was the urgent need to address the educational, health, leadership and economic challenges confronting the youth.
She said challenges such as conflicts, terrorism, violent extremism, irregular migration, poverty and cyber crime that had plagued African countries could be addressed when the youth were empowered.
While stressing the need for strong leadership and commitment on the part of state officials as the way forward to make judicious use of public resources, she also urged the youth to take a keen interest in the governance process.
“It is our collective responsibility to protect the legacy bequeathed us by our forefathers, so all citizens, especially the youth, need to rise to the challenge,” she added.
In a speech delivered on his behalf, the Chairman of the AU, Professor Alpha Conde, shared the view that given the fact that a greater proportion of the population of Africa was youthful, policies by leaders ought to be centred on youth development.
The speech, which was delivered by Mrs Musaka, said investment in the youth was a major step towards eliminating most of the continent’s development challenges.
“When African countries prioritise issues of youth empowerment and put in place the right policies, its young people will not accept to be recruited as terrorists or for extremist activities,” he said.
Prof. Conde asked leaders in Africa to put in place sustainable mechanisms to wean their economies from over-reliance on donor funding of development projects.
That, he said, required the strengthening of institutions that had the mandate to check corrupt practices and also demand accountability from people who are put in charge of public resources.
He said the continent was endowed with abundant resources and that the onus lay on the various countries to properly harness those endowments, instead of looking for external support at all times.
He further charged member countries of the AU to remove all forms of barriers to economic, social and political co-operation on the continent.