After a seven-year break, the Africa-Europe Youth Cooperation Programme is back! The Programme is an initiative of the African Union and the European Union that enables exchanges between and the capacity-building of youth organisations, creating the framework and conditions for their active participation in the development of their societies, in decision/policymaking and in the implementation of the EU-Africa Strategic partnership.
Led by the North-South Centre of the Council of Europe (NSC-CoE) in collaboration with Stakeholders working in the field of Youth across Africa and Europe, the programme incorporates various activities including.
- Africa-Europe Youth Summits – organised prior to the Africa-EU Heads of State Summits, aimed to prepare the contribution of youth organisations to the EU-Africa Summit, to reach an effective framework for dialogue and cooperation between young people and youth organisations from both regions and to contribute to the recognition of the important role they play in the Africa-Europe cooperation.
- African University on Youth and Development – annual event developed to promote the contribution of youth for the implementation of the EU-Africa Strategic Partnership. It aims at creating a space for debate and reflection, affirmative youth action and promotion of youth policies, training and non-formal education, as well as intercultural and inter-regional dialogue within the context of Euro-African youth cooperation and the follow-up of the Africa Europe Youth Summits.
- Capacity-Building Activities – such as the Africa-Europe Training Course for Youth Organisations, Training Course for Young Leaders of the African Diaspora Living in Europe, and the Long-term Training Course for Trainers on Africa Europe Youth Cooperation
- Advocacy-Policy Development Activities – sub regional activities to bring together State actors and youth organisations to reflect on the developments of national and local youth policies in Africa; to promote the African Youth Charter and its ratification and implementation; to strengthen the capacity of State and non-State actors to develop integrated youth policies using co-management principles; and to strengthen the regional integration of youth organisations and networks in the five building blocks of the African Union.
- Mapping – An exercise to map out and continuously update existing organisations, opportunities for knowledge sharing and capacity building and enhance communication for the members of the Africa-Europe Youth Platform.
- Seed Funding – a grant allocation intended to promote Africa-Europe youth exchanges, networking, and political participation of non-State actors (youth leaders, youth workers, experts, and trainers)
- Monitoring and Evaluation Meetings – a monitoring group was created as a Forum where representatives of youth organisations in both continents can evaluate and monitor the efforts of Governments as well as youth organisations and the progress of the Euro-African Youth Cooperation.
From 22 to 25 November 2022, I had the distinguished pleasure of attending the International Stakeholders Meeting of Africa-Europe Youth Cooperation as part of the activities of the 8th African University on Youth and Development in the city of Mindelo, Sao Vicente Island, Cape Verde. It was a very nostalgic return to the city I last visited in May 2013 as a participant at the 5th African University on Youth and Development.
The event was organised in the framework of the new three-year project “Peace YP – promoting Euro-Africa cooperation to enhance youth participation for peace” by the North-South Centre of the Council of Europe under the theme “Building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions”. The project focuses on
- Addressing the interdependence between the Youth, Peace, and Security Agenda and the SDG16
- Strengthening the capacities of youth civil society in their efforts to build peace and achieve the SDGs through a more coordinated and inclusive Euro-Africa interregional cooperation.
- Promoting youth contributions to the SDG 16 Peace, Justice, and Strong Institution
At the Stakeholders Meeting we had the opportunity to reflect on the cooperation’s journey to date, explore challenges and opportunities as well as map out a way forward to revitalize and sustain engagements with the goal of strengthening interregional cooperation and youth participation in decision-making processes in Africa and Europe.
Other activities that took place during the week were the Consultations on the AU-EU Youth Hub, Training Course on Active Citizenship and Youth Involvement in Politics by Instituto do Desporto e da Juventude, and a Training Course by VerdeFam Cabo Verde.
As an alumnus of the African University on Youth and Development, I also took time to reflect on my experience with the cooperation which started at 9th Africa-Europe Training Course for Youth Organizations in 2013. Over the years, I have had other opportunities to contribute at the 2nd Africa-Europe Youth Platform Meeting in Brussels in 2014 and supported the hosting of the 6th and 7th African Universities on Youth and Development, both in Nairobi 2015 hosted by Network of International Youth Organizations in Africa. I also had the privilege of being in the Drafting Committee of the 4th Africa-Europe Youth Summit that developed the Abidjan Declaration in 2017. Returning for the 8th African University on Youth and Development as a representative of the world’s largest educational youth movement, SCOUTS, was therefore not only nostalgic, but also a testament to the power of the university in shaping leaders for Africa, Europe, and the world.
In my message to the participants, I pointed out that I see the University as an important space for
- Solidarity – Understanding that there is more that unites us than divides us (culturally, social, economically and politically)
- Action – Developing personal, collective and institutional commitments to take action to address the most pressing issues of our times (grassroots community projects, advocacy, participation in decision-making)
- Networking – Building a community of like-minded changemakers and friends to inspire, encourage and support each other (experiences, collaboration, physical exchanges)
- Empowerment – Building capacity (knowledge, skills and attitudes) of young people to lead their communities, continents, and the world.
- Growth – Personal development and organizational strengthening for more effective youth work and sustainability of organizations and networks
It is an experience that has shaped me in many ways, including professionally to the level that I lead partnerships and advocacy efforts for Scouting in Africa, as well as being the organizational focal point for the Euro-Africa cooperation process. In this role, I also contribute to deciding on, designing, and deliver educational opportunities for millions of young people across the continent. At a personal level, it helped me strengthen my passion in education where I work through community organisations to championing quality formal and non-formal education for children and young people living in rural areas and disadvantaged urban communities
I urged the participants to seize the moment and make the best out of every opportunity, just like I did over nine years ago. I also challenged them to go back home to their communities and make a difference – for something greater than themselves – with the knowledge and skills gained during the event, with the understanding that “those to whom much has been given, much is required”
I am excited about the future of the cooperation and believe that it will continue to offer many more young people, youth organizations and networks, the much-needed support to effectively contribute to shaping a more inclusive, peaceful, and sustainable world.