With foreign minister for Chad, Moussa Faki Mahamat taking over the African Union (AU) chairmanship, it is a good time to look back at his predecessors achievements, especially for the African youth and women.
South Africa’s Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma made history in the AU as the first woman and first South African to be elected in as commissioner since the founding of the organization in 2002. She was appointed to the position in July 2012 by African Heads of State in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and has since made a notable impact. Her profile of the AU’s website describes her as “an undisputable trailblazer in the upliftment and empowerment of women across the African continent.”
There are 4 significant actions she has taken to uplifting women and youth on the continent:
- African Youth Volunteer Corps
Better known as AU-YVC, it is African Union’s initiative started in 2010 for promoting youth participation, capacity building and empowerment through service and skills exchange, driven by the philosophy of Pan-Africanism and Youth Leadership. AU-YVC recruits and works with young professionals age 18-35 from across the Continent and the Diaspora, to serve for a period of 12 months in their respective fields of expertise in an AU Member States other than their own. Though not started in her time, it was under her leadership that the corps has flourished. Through the program, many lives have been uplifted. Especially among the youth who volunteer. Eddy Donkeng, a former volunteer from Cameroon says, “The 17th AU Summit provided an opportunity to openly discuss our thoughts with some of our presidential leaders. I learned that some of them really appreciate to have frequent exchanges with the youth. This might look like nothing but just imagine a President of your country listening to you and taking notes in his own note book.”
- Regional Youth Consultations
The consultations provide a platform for aggregating youth concerns, insights and perspectives, building capacity as well as showcasing youth initiatives that advance human rights on the continent. The consultations also seek to create an avenue for interactions and exchanges between participants and AU Organs, Regional as well as National Human Rights Mechanisms towards the advancement of human and peoples’ rights in Africa. The consultations took place in Ghana, Namibia, Uganda and Tunisia in 2016. They bring together over 200 selected youth from across the five regions of Africa. They have increased youth involvement in the AU especially because of the social media connectedness it brings.
- 2015 Year of Women Empowerment
During the 23rd Ordinary Session of the Summit of the African Union in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea in 2014, the Assembly agreed to hold its 24th Ordinary Session at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2015 under the theme: “Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063”. That 2015 should be “seized as an opportunity to focus on the implementation of practical solutions that will provide measurable results for women”. In line with this, Dlamini-Zuma established a rule of gender parity at the AUC level ensuring that there are 5 men and women each as Commissioners. Even in appointments of staff, she ensured the appointment of highly qualified women into several positions within the Commission. She also appointed a Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security to shine the spotlight on the challenges faced by women in conflict situations on the continent. This is coupled with an institutional reform of the Gender Directorate, ensuring the appointment of a competent director to further drive home efforts on women empowerment on the continent.
- 2017 Year of Investment in Youths
African Union Heads of State and Government are “CONVINCED that Africa’s greatest resource is its youthful population and that through their active and full participation, Africans can surmount the difficulties that lie ahead”. In line with this, 2017 will be the year dedicated towards helping African Youth grow to greater and greater heights. Already, the first ever African Youth Conference on African Unity and Development took place from 22-25th January. The main objective was to assess the AU year 2017 theme and propose recommendations based on young people’s priorities to ensure appropriate channeling of investments in youth for their upliftment, sustainable and inclusive growth.
The echoes of Dlamini-Zuma’s impact to youth and women will be felt for years as she put their priorities top on the list of her agendas during her tenure.