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Youth are critical to realizing SDGs, according to Oliver Chinganya

Africa’s youth are an important vehicle that should be harnessed to ensure the continent achieves sustainable development, according to Oliver Chinganya, Director of the Economic Commission for Africa’s (ECA) African Centre for Statistics.

Speaking at the beginning of a life skills training programme for the youth in Ethiopia, Mr. Chinganya, who is also Officer in Charge of the Technology, Climate Change and Natural Resources Management Division of the ECA, said the youth can only have this positive impact provided they are given the right start in life. The training, the seventh held in a row, focuses on the transition of boys and girls to adulthood.

According to recent UN statistics, there were 1.2 billion young people aged 15-24 years globally in 2015, comprising nearly 30 per cent of the world’s population. Approximately 226 million of these young people live in Africa, making the continent the most youthful in the world. Children under age 15 accounted for 41 per cent of the population in Africa and young persons aged 15 to 24 accounted for a further 19 per cent. By 2030, the target date for the sustainable development goals, it is projected that the number of youth in Africa will increase by 42 per cent to 321 million.

“These numbers come with benefits and challenges, some of which might affect you,” said Chinganya, adding this youth generation was the largest in human history. He further noted that this generation of youth faces major challenges in getting access to higher education, employment, lack of participation in social, economic and political decision making process, among many others.

Increasing numbers of young people is expected to put additional pressure on the already strained education and health care services, housing and employment across the continent raising the need for proper planning by the authorities. “So, growing up in this challenging era, our youth need to have the necessary skills that equip them to grow into well-functioning adults,” said Mr. Chinganya, adding the life skills training was crucial in ensuring the youth have abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour, that enables them to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life.

“You are growing up in an era where there are many influencers around, the most common being the social media and the internet. I hope this training touches on how you can use these to your benefit and not detriment,” he warned the young people receiving the training.

Life skills include critical and creative thinking, decision-making, effective communication, as well as skills for developing healthy relationships and a positive self-concept. Life skills help young people make responsible and informed choices and can promote healthy lifestyles as well as career skills.

He applauded the Ethiopia UN Country Team and the UN Health Centre for the training, adding this initiative built on the UN Secretary-General’s vision of empowering youth, in particular those in marginalized areas and young women and girls through capacity building, research, facilitating policy dialogue and assessing progress on implementing of the World Programme of Action for Youth and youth charter.

“Let us all work for a 21st century that will see the full empowerment through education, skills, health and civil participation of youth, with a focus on your health, decision-making, economic empowerment and opportunities. As youth, you can claim the 21st century through life skills and make the world a better place for all. Please practice what you will have learnt here because you are the tomorrow and the future,” said Mr. Chinganya. The UN Country Team and the UNHCC have been giving life skills training in Addis Ababa for the past seven years.