“Unlocking Youth Potential”: Interviews from Europe and Africa

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Youth unemployment becomes a challenge for governments and a nightmare for youth. Youth unemployment remains a barrier for the young generation in Africa and Europe. More than 75 million young people are unemployed internationally; this number is getting bigger in Africa, as it remains the youngest continent of the world with the highest number of unemployment among youth.

This large unemployed youth population indicates lost development potential since governments fail to benefit from the young people’s contribution. Also, difficulties in finding and sustaining decent employment diminish from a young person’s lifetime productivity, which makes it even more challenging to face poverty, hunger, health issues and more social and economic issues.

I caught up with Mr. Yassine Mohamed Ennaem, President of ADYNE (African Diaspora Youth Network in Europe) to get his opinion on the subject.

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Sana: First, thank you Mr. Yassine for taking the time to chat with us, we imagine how busy you are, and we’ve been informed that you will take part of the “African Diaspora Forum in Europe” this June as a Keynote Speaker, can you share with us a brief background of the work you do?

Mr. Yassine: Thank you Sana, it is my pleasure. I’m the President of ADYNE as you have mentioned Our target group to serve is mainly the African Diaspora community, thought we always make sure that other backgrounds and no African youth are present, our work is devoted to provide them with opportunities and skills, to motivate them and inspire them to change their situations in Europe to a better one, not only that but also to contribute to the society and to the development of their countries of living and Origin, and here allow me to tell that this was The vision of ADYNE since we created it “ to create a world where every African Diaspora youth in Europe can unite as Global Citizens to contribute to the sustainable development of both continents”

Sana: Amazing, as you know the forum is tackling a very challenging topic which is the youth unemployment among Africans living in the Diaspora, based on your case and in addition for being active in the Diaspora, you are also recognized as shifting example to the national development scale, how would you describe the current situation of Africans in Diaspora in Europe?

Mr. Yassine: To be fair, the youth unemployment nowadays is a challenge faced by all Youth in Europe, therefore we cannot connect it to people with African background only, though there are cases where people with African background did not have equal opportunities as others, I would say that this is not the rule, it remains a culture that will probably take sometimes to overtake it and the best way to face this issue is by being more competitive, youth with African background in many cases they should be better than others to be given a job, if they are just equal they are not given the priority unfortunately.

I would like to stress on the fact that today we can see large number of people with African background occupying a high positions in every field and sector, director, professors, doctors, judges, Ministers, MPs etc…

It is true that most of the first generation of Africans that came to Europe, came to do jobs that Europeans did not want to do at that time, but today the situation has changed, as we have reached 5th & 6th generations of African Diaspora in Europe, the new generations are educated and as qualified as the rest.

Europe constitutes one of the continents that has the biggest African community; we are about 4.5 million in France, 2, 8 million in UK, 1 million in Italy,1 million in Spain 817,500 in Germany, more than 300,000 in Belgium…

We must acknowledge that the Diaspora is a phenomenon of our times, the Diaspora represents a huge potential for the states, and it is outstandingly situated to contribute to the boosting of the economic growth and opulence in Africa and Europe.

I hope this Forum will serve as a starting point for solutions to these related issues that will bring huge opportunities for both continents on different levels.

Sana: VAS Organization is preparing a huge forum that will gather leaders, experts, international organizations an over 200 participants from all over the Diaspora and the world, representing different organizations and groups, the objective behind is to create a bridge of connection. What are your expectations for the Afro-Euro cooperation?

Mr. Yassine: The Afro-Euro cooperation is something that has existed on papers for long time, and it remained as a wish and promise, today this vision should be an action rather than a wish and a promise, and it should be based on mutual respect and mutual benefits and the two continents have the resources and the capitals to make it a win/win case.

The African diaspora in Europe can be the bridge between Africa and Europe in this cooperation. Here I remember an African Proverb that says “alone you can go fast together we can go far”

Sana: Very powerful, in one sentence what is your best advice for youth taking part in this forum this year?

Mr. Yassine: The world is changing, and we all need to learn how to adjust, and by saying all I don’t mean the African diaspora only.

I also believe that youth should not only think of finding jobs, but they should think out of the box and try to create jobs.

Sana: Wow, very inspiring, thank you for your time. See you in Vienna!

Mr. Yassine: Thank to you Sana for having me, special thanks to VAS and all the team working hard on organizing the Forum, See you in Vienna!

Meanwhile, this year VAS organization is tackling its actions and attention to bring in innovation approaches for youth and governments to face the situation of unemployment, by providing youth a platform where they can improve their expertise and knowledge to meet the needs of the job market. VAS organization organizes an annual event where both leaders of the world and youth meet to discuss and work on ways to create solutions and opportunities for young generation to be a development contributor.

VAS’s Delegates from all over Europe and Africa are putting in final preparations ahead of the “African Diaspora Youth Forum”, hosted by United Nations in Vienna. The main theme of the forum “Unlocking Youth Potential”

From Vienna, Mr. Ibrahima Djiguine, representative of VAS organization and the Co-project manager of this year event. Sana caught up with Mr. Ibrahim for a brief chat, ahead of the forum in Vienna.

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Sana: First, thank you Mr. Ibrahim for taking the time to chat with us, it must be a very busy period now for you as the forum date is approaching, and let me congratulate you on being a model for Africans living in the Diaspora. Out of the many Africans, you have been chosen by VAS organization as successful model I believe it’s because of a proven record of hard work in enhancing the African development. Can you share a brief background of the work you do?

Mr. Ibrahim: Thank you Sana for this opportunity to share my thoughts with you. Our mission is to create a suitable environment for academic success, promotion of culture, encourage entrepreneurship and solidarity for positive change. I have been since a year now a member of VAS and I was the co project manager of last year’ International Youth Conference. Our work involves different fields of activities with different projects.

We organize Forums and conferences with the goal of organizing and empowering the Youth to join growing movement and raising awareness on tackling the challenges faced by the Diaspora living in Europe.

We cooperate in a network with other organizations and experts from the African Youth, Youth in general and other important stakeholders all over the world. Our recent focus in the latest conference was capacity building, coordination of projects, networking and cooperation.

Sana: What are your challenges and best success story as African living in the Diaspora?

Mr. Ibrahim: There are many challenges involved in finding opportunities to investment, employment and most of all room for creative entrepreneurs to start new businesses for sustainable growth in Africa.

We try our best to motivate millions of Diaspora to invest their Finance back home and contribute their skills to the advance. Fostering entrepreneurship and innovation for sustainable development of our countries is our ambitions and this is not found to be easy not only for Africa but other parts of the world. However through our training programs and workshops we discuss ways how the Diaspora can participate in the development of our countries mainly in policy making and decision making levels.

Sana: As an active symbol of African in the Diaspora, how would you describe the current situation of Africans in Diaspora in your home country, and how do you manage to contribute in the development of your country?

Mr. Ibrahim: To answer this question I will start by mentioning that I have good feeling in general about how the Diaspora currently contribute to the advancement of their countries.

I strongly believe that the African Diaspora’s contribution as agents of Africa’s socioeconomic change should not be measured merely in financial terms, but as inputs of skilled labor and by its ability to build bridges between countries of origin and destination which help stimulate, not only economic activity, but transfers of knowledge and cultural and social norms.

There are several ways in which I participate to the development of my country. These ways include promoting development: Through innovation, broad based networks I am taking my love for Africa and applying it with ingenuity for good.

Creating greater awareness of Africa’s development issues

  • Increasing collaboration with other African Diaspora in development and mainstream International Development organizations
  • Contribute to the increasingly irrefutable evidence and recognition of the value that the African Diaspora brings to development efforts at home.

Sana: VAS Organization is preparing a huge forum that will gather over 200 participants from all over the Diaspora and the world, representing different organizations and groups. What is your best advice for them?

Mr. Ibrahim: As this is a continuation of last year’s international youth conference which was an outstanding one, I invite all the youth to come and have the opportunity to meet and share ideas with experts as well as networking and working closely together in order to coordinate international dialogue amongst important stakeholders for African development.

Sana: What are your expectations for the “African Diaspora Youth Forum in Europe”?

Mr. Ibrahim: My expectation is that after this forum I hope we will be able to make contributions to

  • Empower young people to be the shifters of the future, and to be active contributor in the political, social and economic development of Africa and Europe;
  • Create new opportunities to boost the social responsibility, integration and social entrepreneurship by enhancing Africa/Europe Youth Cooperation projects.
  • Establish a connection among young people, policy‐makers and the social partners to empower youth development in both regions Africa/Europe;
  • Share and exchange the best practices on youth employment, civic participation to meet the MDGs goals;

Sana: Very exciting, I have no doubt that VAS forum will be successful. Thank you for your time. See you in Vienna!

Mr. Ibrahim: Thank you for having me!

If women’s entrepreneurship was not only a female Agenda!

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A number of studies and researches over the past years have highlighted that gender equality is a smart economic tool. The unexploited potential of women is a lost opportunity for economic progress and development. Women’s economic participation promotes agricultural productivity, enterprise expansion at the micro and macro, small and medium enterprise levels, in addition to improving business management and returns on investments.

Besides boosting economic growth, investing in women has multiplier effects; women plow a large portion of their income in their families and communities. Women play crucial role in creating peaceful and stable societies which are important factors for economic growth. Regrettably, even these benefits have been universally recognized and have therefore not translated into women’s full economic participation, especially in Africa, where women still face obstacles when establishing new businesses or even increasing existing ones. Among the biggest obstacles are discriminatory laws, regulations and business conditions, with women’s lack of access to property rights, finance, training, technology, markets, mentors, and networks. We can only imagine one of the reasons behind the lack of economic development of Africa when half of the population is discriminated from full participation in the economic level.

Although there has been current focus on developing women’s entrepreneurship in Africa, this spotlight has been on growth-oriented women’s businesses. Women’s entrepreneurship in micro and small business that are often measured as informal, regardless of these concentrated efforts of poverty reduction initiatives through increased access to skills training and micro-credit, still have not been able to reach the growth potential among women.

The role of women in African economies is more emphasized in recent years by ensuring gender equality and women empowerment among Africans. But the fact is that women have less access to resources, education and health facilities in most of the African countries, where women are half the workforce. Greater participation of women in economic activities is the major concern of most of the countries in Africa, which is considered as one of the best tools to achieve and attain a sustain development in Africa. Africa cannot manage to attain a development if half of its population is discriminated and ignored from local and national policies.

African governments need to show more financial aid to support efforts to increase women’s access to quality financial services; there is an urge need to highlight women’s crucial role in advancing agricultural development and food security, and encourage policy and programmatic support for female farmers and agricultural businesses owned by women, and reform the policy to facilitating the processes for women in this field.

More support to NGOs, industry associations, and corporations advocating for policy and programmatic solutions that would enable women’s economic participation, also enhance more technology Access and providing access to mobile phones, Internet, and other vital technologies along with addressing cultural, financial, educational barriers…

Provide capacity building, trainings, and mentoring programs to women and girls and equip them with market information, entrepreneurship opportunities, and the necessary skills to attain economic independence; and Encourage best practices to increase women’s leadership in the sector of business and entrepreneurship;

Government states need to find a solution to one of the biggest obstacles in Africa which is Data Collection; endorse the collection and configuration of gender data in the economic sector to create evidence-based policy and programs aimed at increasing women’s economic participation across all sectors.

If women’s entrepreneurship was not only a female Agenda, Africa would be different.