African youth empowered to drive the Sustainable Development Goals

Press Release • 26 November 2019

Speak Up Africa awards sustainable development champions and launches new Youth Council at 2nd Forum Galien Afrique in Dakar

Yesterday, global health representatives gathered during the 2nd Forum Galien Afrique in Dakar, Senegal, to recognize and reward excellence in driving the improvement of health outcomes across the continent.  

Speak Up Africa, a policy and advocacy action tank based in Senegal, hosted a side-event on youth engagement, to discuss how young people in Africa are major agents of change in achieving sustainable development. The event aimed to create new opportunities for Youth to engage in the implementation of the 2030 agenda in Africa, identify gaps in information, education and advocacy and recommend innovative ways of addressing them.

With over 100 participants, including local students and university representatives, the interactive event featured discussion from Maimouna Ndoye, Director of Programs at Soeur de Coeur, Sobel Ngom, Executive Director at the Social Change Factory, Aminata Badiane Thioye, Member of the Civil Society Says No to NTDs Network, Dr. Imboua Niava Ludie, WHO representative, Professor Awa Marie Coll-Seck, President of the Scientific Committee of the Forum Galien Afrique and Michel Sidibé, Minister of Health and Social Affairs of Mali.

Topics covered included the role of mentoring, the importance of community participation in building sustainable integrated health systems and how strategic partnerships and emerging solutions can help young people to contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa.

Recognizing leadership

Speak Up Africa also presented its first Leadership Award to President of Senegal Macky Sall, Special Olympics Senegal, Professor Awa Marie Coll-Seck and Sobel Ngom. The award was created to recognize and celebrate individuals and organisations which demonstrate exemplary leadership in sustainable development and bring a positive impact through their work and initiatives.

President Macky Sall has been a strong advocate of the Zero Malaria Starts with Me movement in Senegal, and played an integral role in mobilizing other African governments to support the campaign. Speak Up Africa also commends his continued support of both UHC and immunization, and in urging African leaders to address the continent’s health challenges during the 2019 Regional Committee for Africa.

Speak Up Africa and Special Olympics Senegal have worked in partnership since 2015 across a range of initiatives such as the “Zero Malaria Starts with Me” campaign. The organisations’ joint Football Combating Malaria Programme resulted in 369 malaria talks given in schools, 77,440 people educated on malaria issues, and the distribution of 70,000 long lasted insecticide treated nets in Senegal.

Professor Awa Marie Coll-Seck is a long-standing development champion, supporting issues such as malaria and neglected tropical diseases for over 20 years. Professor Coll-Seck was integral to the launch of the Zero Malaria Starts with Me campaign in Senegal in 2014, along with the launch of the No to NTD movement at last year’s Forum Galien Afrique. With experience as a board member for organizations such as the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, Panorama and Gavi, her contribution to improving development issues across the continent is unparalleled.

Professor Awa Marie Coll-Seck, President of the Scientific Comity of the Forum Galien Afrique adds:

“If we want the continent to succeed and overcome our development challenges, it is essential that the youth is engaged in the fight for a healthier and thriving Africa. By educating and empowering young people, we are already setting the stage for a brighter future. It is a great honour to receive Speak Up Africa’s first ever leadership award. Their commitment and actions have impacted policy across the continent, and I look forward to working with them further to achieve even greater change.” 

A Youth Council for Africa’s future

With 77% of Africa’s population under the age of 35[1], Africa has the youngest global population of any continent. At the event, Speak Up Africa announced the creation of a new African Youth Council, launching a call for proposals for an advisory board of dedicated young adults with a passion for advancing progress across the continent.

Sobel Ngom, Executive Director at the Social Change Factory, will guide the six members of the council to advise on the organisation’s program areas in his role of Chair. He brings a wealth of experience communications and civic leadership, and in mentoring and inspiring young entrepreneurs in Africa.

Mr Ngom comments: « It is my pleasure to chair Speak Up Africa’s brand new Youth Ambassadors’ Council and ensure, through this initiative, that youth opinions and voices are being considered and amplified. One of my favorite proverb is « Don’t just serve the youth, trust them to lead » and this is exactly what Speak Up Africa is aiming at.

Yacine Djibo, Executive Director of Speak Up Africa adds:“It is simply critical that the youth of tomorrow are engaged and informed when it comes to achieving sustainable development in Africa, which is why we have launched the search for our first ever African Youth Council to help advise our programmes. Not only will the youth directly experience the outcomes of SDGs, they will also be a key driver for their successful implementation across Africa.

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