Together, the Africa we want is within our reach
A large gathering of young, energetic and passionate Sustainable Development advocates came together at the 5th African Youth SDG Summit in Lusaka, Zambia from 14th - 17th August 2023 under the theme “ Attaining the SDGs through Youth Innovation and Financing for Inclusive Development in Africa”. More than 500 African youth from all over the continent with a strong ambition for a better Africa representing multiple and diverse organizations, agencies and civil societies working on various solutions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals across Africa.
The Melton Foundation was represented by its delegates from the Accra Hub along with the Hub Coordinator and fellows to engage in meaningful conversations, network, and share what the Melton Foundation does, as well as to conduct a workshop on “Fostering Youth Driven-Innovation and Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Development in Africa”.
Key Takeaways and Top Insights from the Main Summit Plenary:
From the panel discussion sessions and conversations that the delegates had in the four days of the summit, they had the following insights.
- As the current and future custodians of our planet, youths stand to lose the most if the challenges facing Africa remain unabated amidst the multifaceted nature of most of them like climate disasters.
- Recognizing and providing assistance to marginalized young individuals who actively contribute to SDG attainment. Doing so acknowledges their invaluable efforts in overcoming adversity while driving positive change in their communities and ensures that their potential is maximized for sustainable development.
- African countries must unite in pursuing the SDG goals to collectively leverage their resources, expertise, and shared experiences, fostering regional cooperation and addressing continent-wide challenges more effectively for sustainable development.
- Empowering young people with leadership positions in Africa is essential for achieving the SDG goals as their innovative perspectives, deep understanding of local challenges, and dynamic energy can drive transformative change, foster sustainable development, and ensure inclusive, equitable progress across sectors, effectively addressing the continent’s diverse socio-economic and environmental challenges.
- The health and well-being of young people in Africa are paramount for SDG attainment as they constitute the demographic dividend, and ensuring their access to quality healthcare, education, and opportunities empowers them to contribute actively to sustainable development.
Understanding where we are
The inaugural day of the summit revolved around delving into its overarching theme and assessing Africa’s progress towards realizing the SDG goals. The plenary session received the distinguished presence of government representatives from Zambia, along with delegates from the United Nations and the Economic Commission of Africa. The day’s focal points centered on pivotal summit areas, such as nurturing youth-led innovations, promoting youth employment, prioritizing the health and well-being of young individuals, and mobilizing youth forces for transformative change. This first-day engagement played a pivotal role in profoundly capturing the attention and enthusiasm of the attending Melton Foundation fellows, significantly shaping their perspective and experience throughout the summit by instilling a comprehensive understanding of the key thematic areas and fostering a deeper commitment to being catalysts for positive impact within their communities and beyond.
Healthy Youth, a Wealthy Africa
On the second day, our fellows attended a side event titled, “Achieving Health and Wellbeing Through Youth Centered Healthcare”, coordinated by Cooper Rose Zambia, which effectively highlighted the pivotal role of youth-centered healthcare in promoting holistic well-being, resonating strongly with our fellows and igniting a shared commitment to prioritize and advocate for comprehensive healthcare strategies tailored to young people’s needs. One of the participants shared a popular Zambian quote that says, “Nothing for us without us”, which led to the discussion of how the youth can be involved in addressing the health and well-being challenges that they face. Below is a summary of the salient points from the discussion:
- Address the challenge that the youth have in accessing sexual reproductive health services. Many African parents, guardians, and caregivers avoid talking about sexual related matters directly to their children therefore leaving them to learn from the wrong sources. A participant echoed that sexual reproductive rights should not be made a taboo topic rather parents and guardians should be key educators in creating awareness for young people to protect themselves.
- Another area that emerged was the topic of contraception. Many young Africans are either too embarrassed to ask or not aware at all that there are means that they can use to protect themselves from early pregnancies and STIs which has led to high cases of teenage pregnancies. Young people should therefore be provided avenues where they will learn about the different ways they can protect themselves from STIs and pregnancy.
- The media should also be involved in providing the right information to young people. The CEO of Cooper Rose, Natasha Salyfanji Kaoma challenged the peer educators in the room to use their social media platforms to share the knowledge they have with others.
Lastly, the discussion shifted to what the government could do to support young people. Here are some recommendations that the participants gave:
- Revising health policies to include the youth will yield substantial benefits by ensuring tailored healthcare services, comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education, and youth-friendly facilities, consequently promoting healthier lifestyles, reducing preventable diseases, and fostering a generation better equipped to contribute to social and economic development.
- Intersecting the different entities of society since the health care sector is dependent on the other aspects of society like social cohesion, peace and security, good transportation, agriculture and so much more.
- More infrastructure should be channeled to train peer educators from all communities as it equips diverse young leaders with the skills and knowledge to effectively disseminate targeted information, drive behavior change, and bridge gaps in awareness, thereby fostering inclusive, community-driven approaches to education, health, and social progress.
The Path to 2030
On the third day of the summit, the central focus revolved around harnessing the intersection of Humanitarian, Peace, and Development elements to effectively advance the SDGs for the benefit of young people. The day’s discussions illuminated strategies for achieving this, including harnessing value chains within the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and regional trading blocs like ECOWAS, COMESA, SADC, and UNECA, for sustainable youth empowerment across the continent. Additional highlights encompassed amplifying youth engagement in democratic processes, recognizing education as a key driver of youth progress in Africa, and actively involving marginalized communities in initiatives to enhance sexual and reproductive healthcare services. These sessions deeply impacted and challenged the fellows, fostering a broader perspective on the complex interconnectedness of humanitarian, peace, and development factors and their potential to drive tangible change. The discussions spurred the fellows to critically examine innovative avenues for sustainable development, effectively advocating for youth participation in governance, education, and healthcare systems and ignited a renewed sense of responsibility to contribute meaningfully to holistic societal progress.
Workshop facilitated by the Melton Foundation
The summit reached its pinnacle on this day as the fellows, alongside the coordinator, had meticulously prepared for a highly engaging auxiliary event titled “Fostering Youth-Driven Innovation for Sustainable Development in Africa.” With a brief but in-depth introduction to the concept of Global Citizenship and the Melton Foundation’s programmatic activities towards developing ethical and global leaders as well as the session outline, the workshop centered on nurturing youth-driven innovation and entrepreneurship, employing storytelling for instigating change, conducting an ideation session, and facilitating an open discussion on the role of technology in African development. In the pre-event planning phase, our delegates initially expected 60 participants; however, on the actual day, attendance surpassed expectations with over 150 participants, an inspiring outcome for the team. What set this session apart was the exceptional level of interactivity introduced by our fellows. Attendees were organized into groups of 10, collaborating closely to devise solutions for their chosen problem areas. The core aims of the session – connection, empowerment, and transformation – were successfully met. By the session’s conclusion, a significant portion of participants expressed a keen interest in learning more about the Melton Foundation and the opportunities it offers, a matter expertly addressed by our Accra Hub coordinator, Eric Nii Anyetei Odonkor.
The upcoming SDG Innovation Challenge 2023 was of particular interest to participants – the ideation session embedded in the workshop provided an outlet for participants to exercise their creative and problem-solving abilities. The experience inspired participants to answer the call for applications to enter the competition focused on ideating solutions for African problems in a virtual space for 48-72 hours from 21st – 23rd September 2023.
One of the participants, Banji Nsama who is the Administrative Assistant of the Council of NGOs in Zambia and also a Menstrual Hygiene champion mentioned that,
“Achieving the SDGs in Africa demands unified endeavors from all young individuals across the continent. The Melton Foundation’s commitment to empowering its fellows with the skills to drive change within their communities is commendable. The organization, implementation, and facilitation of the workshop at the summit strongly speaks to their capabilities and contributions as Global Citizens!”
The summit concluded with closing remarks from the organizers and the announcement of the 6th African Youth SDG Summit taking place in Accra, Ghana in 2025! Contact us to get in touch with Melton Foundation Africa and join hands with us as we foster Global Citizenship in the African sub-continent and beyond!