Baywood Foundation Partners African Union on Youth Involvement in Governance, Leadership

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Funmi Ogundare

Baywood Foundation recently announced its pan-African initiative, in collaboration with the African Union (AU), aimed at providing an avenue for youth participation in governance and future leadership roles.

The Founder, Emperor Baywood Ibe, who briefed journalists on the initiative in Lagos, said it would strengthen multi-lateral cooperation with regional political and economic communities, as well as international development partners.

He emphasised on its two-day interactive conference titled ‘Back to the Future: Young People Reimagining Today’s Politics’, held on August 16 and 17 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which featured speakers and presentations from key stakeholders from all over African countries, including Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Mali, Botswana, Senegal, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Africa, Tunisia, Kenya and Tanzania deliberating on the critical issue of increased participation of youths in politics and governance.

He expressed hope that aside fostering effective stakeholder outreach within the continent, it will also strengthen the current structural framework and unlock value system through an increased participation for youth as well as leadership capacity development.

“We believe at Baywood Foundation that the primary responsibility of shaping the destiny and future of Africa lies in the hands of Africans and more especially with the youths.”

Ibe disclosed that the foundation will from next year, absorb 200,000 youths across Africa from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, gender and academic disciplines to participate in a special internship scheme for 12 months.

“During this period, the candidates, each of whom will undergo a strict vetting process prior to selection, would be placed in an internship role in a relevant institution such as a political party, legislative body, government agency, among others.

“The focused objective is to position the candidate within an environment which provides opportunities to establish networks, upgrade knowledge levels and chart a career path in government. It is a way of equipping the youths so that they can have the opportunity to become someone in life,” he said.

He expressed concern about government’s neglect, lack of engagement and collaboration with the youths in governance, saying that these have culminated in lack of opportunities for them to actively participate.

“These problems are lamentable, anti-democratic, including the exclusionist disposition of African leaders who capitalise on ethnic, religious, as well as socio-economic divisions in their countries to perpetuate themselves in office.

“The African continent is riddled with presidents who have spent over 35 years in office and are aiming for 40 years or more. The statistics in this regard makes for very sober reflection indeed, hence the clarion call for affirmative action.

“The consequences of this characteristic of African leaders has led to the gross socio-economic under-development of Africa, corruption, genocides and the exclusion of many generations of youths from governance,” he stressed.

While commending President Muhammadu Buhari’s move by signing the ‘Not too Young to Run’ bill in 2018 to reduce the age limit across political offices, including the presidency, Ibe said though it is a step in the right direction, it is not enough as it does not address the systemic constraints to youth participation in governance.

Aside the AU, he noted that the foundation has also partnered Enugu State University of Technology (ESUT); the West Africa Network for Peace Building (WANEP); and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in furtherance of the affirmative action to organise a programme on ‘Harnessing the Potential of the Youths in Nigeria’, at the establishment of the Institute for Peace and Development at ESUT. “This is part of on-going efforts to lend our voice to the clarion call for greater youth participation across various cadres in government,” Ibe said.