Young African local elected officials facing the effects of COVID-19: How to deal with the cultural, social and economic impacts of the pandemic?

Published on 06/10/2021 | La rédaction

Young people are the driving force behind the development of African cities just as African cities are the driving force behind the development of the continent. With the COVID-19 crisis, young people and cities alike have been deeply affected in their sociability. The initial security and health responses provided by the States (curfews, closures, travel restrictions, etc.) led to a slowdown, or even a suspension of economic, social and cultural activities as a consequence.

To better elucidate this problem centred on youth, UCLG Africa held a virtual meeting last July on the theme "Young local elected officials facing the effects of COVID-19". This meeting was opened by the SG/UGLU, Jean-Pierre Elong Mbassi, and attended by about fifty young people of all ranks. It was an opportunity to take stock of the involvement of young people in local public policies and to propose perspectives to improve the situation.

Active youth in decision-making bodies

Two panels structured these exchanges, the first on the theme of "youth and responsibility", addressed the political dimension of young people's involvement at the height of the crisis, developed by Ms. Thérèse de Vries.The first panel, on the theme of "youth and responsibility", dealt with the political dimension of the commitment of young people at the height of the crisis, presented by Mrs. Thérèse Faye Diouf, Mayor of Diarrere, and the impact of digital technology on the security dimension of our territories, presented by Mr. Marten. Marten.

Mrs. Thérèse Faye Diouf, Mayor of Diarrere, pointed out that the closure of public places and the restriction of movement has completely changed the behaviour of young people in African cities. She insisted on the commitment of young people in the economic recovery and the construction of the future of African cities. To do this, she encouraged young men and women to invest in municipal councils and participate actively in decision-making and budget deliberation.

The Covid 19 imposes the use of digital technology in the definition of economic policies

For his part, Mr Marten emphasised the constraints of Covid-19 on mobility and tourism, particularly in the field of tourism. These constraints have accelerated the use of technology and digital to create the conditions for a return to normalcy. This recourse to digital technology by governments such as the Seychelles has been favoured to relaunch and promote tourism, but also to ensure the health security of citizens and tourists.

During this panel, questions were mainly oriented towards the political aspects of the contribution of young people to the revival of city economies: how to mobilize young people? How to increase the participation of young people in political parties? It was proposed that UCLG Africa and national associations of African local authorities develop advocacy towards national governments and political parties to make it easier for young people to access electoral lists and political affairs.

The second panel on "Youth as a workforce in the growth of the continent" was marked by the intervention of Mr. Frederik Tchoungui, Founder and Managing Director of the African Development Bank. The second panel on "Youth as a workforce in the growth of the continent" was marked by the intervention of Mr. Frederik Tchoungui, Founder, Community of Global Leaders and on the other hand, by the intervention of Mr. Oliver Bastienne, President of the Chamber of Commerce of Seychelles.

The highlight of the panel focused on economic recovery by highlighting the role of youth in entrepreneurship. The other concern raised by the participants is how to value the initiatives of young people who aim to create and find sources of funding despite the context of health crisis? Mr. Tchoungui thus encouraged young entrepreneurs and elected officials to make digital one of the keys to the development of African cities. To achieve this, the improvement and upgrading of telecommunications infrastructure is essential, hence the appeal to public authorities for more investment in this sector.

Mr. Bastienne's presentation showed how COVID-19 has impacted all areas of the private sector employing young people (lower productivity, unemployment, etc.). The Seychelles Chamber of Commerce has supported the youth by providing funding, technical support and training, especially for entrepreneurs; but it has also provided the government with a recovery and prosperity plan in which the youth have been involved. The importance of Information and Communication Technologies was highlighted to show the impact of young people in the development of digital technology as a provider of the jobs of the future.

The summary of the discussions highlighted the need to work in networks and to form coalitions because the many issues facing young local elected representatives cannot be addressed without the participation of all stakeholders. Synergies will be necessary for the construction of the Africa we want.

The discussions of this youth meeting allowed the participants to realize that "we cannot build Africa without its engine, the youth", and that with this crisis of COVID-19 nobody is safe. It is only through solidarity that society will overcome this pandemic.


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