President Hage Geingob speaks at the 39th SADC Summit in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Photo: State House

In his just-concluded one-year term as SADC chairperson Namibian President Hage Geingob is leaving young political actors, innovators, entrepreneurs and peace builders in the region in a better position than they were a year ago, he hinted.

Geingob handed over the reins of the regional bloc to Tanzanian President John Magufuli during the 39th session of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit on Saturday.

In his remarks, the Namibian Head of State incidated that SADC boasts an active young population where two-thirds of its citizens are below the age of 35 years.

According to Geingob, the SADC Summit which saw him ascend to the chairperson position, adopted a theme of ‘Promoting Infrastructure Development and Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development’.

“Some of the key initiatives implemented to operationalize the theme include the participation of youth in various forums, dialogues including water, energy, ICT, transport and employment sectors,” recalled Geingob. 

“A youth coordination structure was established for Water, Energy and Food Security (WEFS) Nexus Infrastructure Project” he added.

Geingob also noted that a SADC Framework for Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting (MER) on youth programmes, among others, at national level was established to facilitate evidence-based youth policy development and implementation. 

The region also developed a conceptual framework for the implementation of SADC Regional Programme on Youth Innovation and Entrepreneurship aimed at ensuring sustainability of the 38th Summit theme during Geingob’s tenure.

“The High-level roundtable was conducted with a theme, ‘Upscaling Sustainable Energy for the Industrialisation Agenda and Youth Empowerment for the SADC Region’.”

Despite these success stories, the President further said that the young people in the region continue to face disproportionate social, economic and political barriers, which prevents them from unleashing their full potential and meaningfully contributing to sustainable development. 

“Unemployment, underemployment, lack of skills and access to capital, result in youth experiencing social and political challenges such as conscription into armed rebellions and exposure to drug use and risky behaviour.”

“Additionally, our youth continue to migrate within the continent as well as abroad, in search of greener pastures, making them vulnerable to exploitation, extreme abuse and mistreatment among other things.”

He added that in order for SADC to achieve its goals, it must work on deliberate and coordinated efforts to accelerate social development that prioritises youth development and empowerment.

“We need to continue enhancing youth participation in policy formulation and to develop programmes in areas that affect the lives of young people in the entire SADC region.”

Stergomena Lawrence Tax, who is the SADC executive secretary thanked Geingob for his vision and guidance in the implementation of the youth reforms.

“Attention was on the amplification of youth voices through the SADC Youth Forum. In this regard, numerous activities were implemented that resulted in the development of a framework on promoting youth innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership,” said Tax.

“This was in recognition of the importance of the youth and the need to mainstream youth empowerment in SADC programmes. To this effect, youth empowerment will remain a continuous SADC agenda,” she remarked.

In his acceptance speech Tanzania’s Magufuli said he has benefited from his predecessor’s “huge experiences” and dedication to the issues of infrastructure development and youth empowerment, among other things.

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