In a continent with the youngest population in the world, youth are considered a powerful factor of positive change. By 2055 this promising population is expected to more than double the 2015 total of 226 million, according to UNDP

But while being “Young African” is often related to poverty, unemployment, lack of opportunities and other misfortunes, being African today has a new definition; it means being ambitious, dynamic, creative, and assuming big responsibilities that can impact a continent in need of every single one of its youth to lead the way to a better future.  

A new generation of young African leaders are speaking up and expressing their enormous hunger and desire for change, by helping their communities, often voluntarily, and making a positive impact. 

Social media is documenting the rise of a new generation of young African leaders, who are speaking up and expressing their enormous hunger and desire for change, by helping their communities, often voluntarily, and making a positive impact. 

Indeed, young Africans prove they can “Shake Things Up,” a slogan used by Aya Chebbi, the young Tunisian appointed the African Union’s first Special Youth Envoy on November 1, 2018. 

“This generation of African youth is the most educated of all time, and the youngest population in the world. 65% of Africa is under 30,” Chebbi told Inside Arabia. “So, with the demographic dividend we have the power of being a social ‘shifter,’ a political voice and a collective actor.” She went on to explain how young Africans are eager to be engaged in the public decision-making process and transformative social change in Africa.

Aya Chebbi during a meeting with a young Sudanese

Aya Chebbi during a meeting with a young Sudanese (AU Youth Envoy Photo)

The young Pan-Africanist has been opening doors of opportunity for African youth, by leading some very ambitious initiatives and missions, to empower them and enhance their leadership skills. She encourages them to stand for their rights and participate effectively in the Africa they “want.” (“#AfricaWeWant” is a famous hashtag that the Office of the African Youth Envoy and many young Africans are using.)

“I have started many youth Initiatives like Africa Youth Movement, Afresist, YPHEM etc., to unite youth around Pan African values, policies and decisions,” Aya Chebbi told Inside Arabia. “Every time a young person becomes Pan-Africanist, I’m closer to achieving my mission.”

One of the latest and most remarkable actions by the African Youth Envoy is the South Sudan Solidarity Mission, that was held on July 2019 to “Amplify the voices of young people, especially young women and girls, to the highest level of decision making.”

During the mission, the Youth Envoy met with many young Sudanese artists, activists, politicians, and influencers, and discussed their engagement in the peace building process in South Sudan. This was also a good opportunity for young Sudanese to express their concerns and opinions on the direction and political future of their country.  

Pan-Africanism is a movement that aims to encourage Africans to be united despite their diversity.

This mission was also a chance to meet the elders and other vulnerable groups and offer them help and hope in a united, peaceful and prosperous Africa that believes in Pan-Africanism, as a movement that aims to encourage Africans to be united despite their diversity. Young and old alike are encouraged to uphold the pan-African values of solidarity, justice, tolerance, and peace between all African countries.

Aya Chebbi in the IDP camp in South Sudan where she listened to elders mothers and fathers and young people

Aya Chebbi in the IDP camp in South Sudan where she listened to elders mothers and fathers and young people (AU Youth Envoy Photo)

The Youth Envoy used these missions to bring awareness to different forms of violence plaguing the continent, such as early child marriage, female genital mutilation, and gender-based violence that African women bear the brunt of. 

Chebbi turned her desire to empower young women and girls into a battle to end child marriage and girl pregnancy. During her mission to Dakar on June 2019, the Deputy Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque issued a fatwa against child marriage, an achievement that demonstrates the power of activism to young Africans.

“African youth must use the power of their demographics and innovative minds to think out of the box and challenge the status quo with working alternatives.”

“African youth must use the power of their demographics and innovative minds to think out of the box and challenge the status quo with working alternatives,” Chebbi told Inside Arabia. “That can only be possible if young Africans unite in vision and action, especially using their power as voters. They can shift everything to be more youth inclusive.”

As Chebbi stated during her speech at the launch of South Sudan’s First Lady’s Campaign on Ending Early Child Marriage and Pregnancy in Juba, South Sudan in July 2019: “It is time for intergenerational dialogue and co-leadership. It is time for young governments. It is time for young women empowerment.” 

It is time to recognize that a better, more peaceful and stronger Africa cannot be achieved without youth empowerment, without the dynamism of young activists, youth movements, and young social entrepreneurs. They are the fearless, brave, and ambitious change makers and future African leaders the continent so desperately needs.