By Katherine Mueller, IFRC
They come from across Africa; young men and women representing dozens of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies. And they come with one purpose. To brainstorm. To collectively map out a way forward for the Red Cross Red Crescent youth movement over the next four years. To determine how to best utilize the energy and innovation of youth to help their individual National Societies grow and flourish.
There is Mr. Abu Bakar Thorodor Jalloh from Sierra Leone; Miss Goitseone Kaisara from Botswana; Mr. Gabriel Goma Mahinga from the Democratic Republic of Congo; Miss Mihary Amintsoa Razyfimanantsoa from Madagascar; and Mr. Abdou Mounkara from Niger. They are all strangers to each other, but they have one thing in common. They are all volunteers at the Red Cross Red Crescent.
These are a small group among almost one million people between the ages of 18 and 30 who are actively engaged in building stronger communities across the continent. “Young people have a lot of energy and collaboratively can be strong instruments of change,” said Geoffrey Korir, co-chair of the Red Cross Red Crescent Youth Commission in Africa. “This conference is an opportunity for us to harness that energy; to hear their ideas and gather them into a concrete action plan through to 2016.”
Held every four years, the Pan African Red Cross Red Crescent Youth Conference, now in its eighth year is being hosted by Ethiopia. It will focus on the diverse ways youth are investing in Africa, such as using information technology to improve access and quality of service to those most vulnerable. It will look at entrepreneurial leadership opportunities for youth, and how regional youth partnerships and networks can help young people advocate to governments and other stakeholders on current and emerging humanitarian issues.
The one-day youth conference is part of a larger three day Pan African Conference which will see more than 500 delegates from over 50 Red Cross Red Crescent Societies descend on Addis Ababa to discuss and debate the theme of Investing in Africa.
With economic growth and private sector investment in Africa steadily overtaking the traditional model of aid dependency, it is critical for Red Cross Red Crescent leaders to spearhead a drive towards developing business models that are self-sustainable, healthy, and designed and owned by the African people.
“We need to encourage National Societies to become self-sustaining,” said Alasan Senghore, Director, International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies, Africa Zone. “If they are to thrive in the years to come, they need to be attracting new types of investment by forming partnerships with local governments and the private sector. They need to be attractive to investors and make wise choices about leadership, management and pride in service. And they need to have more of a say in how funding is spent. This conference is an opportunity for us to come together, discuss those humanitarian and development challenges facing Africa, and how better to meet those challenges.”