Young people’s comments on Finland’s Africa strategy
Young people in Africa have enormous potential, as was stated in the workshop on Finland’s Africa Strategy organised by the Finnish National Youth Council Allianssi on 23 October. The event featured speeches by State Secretary Johanna Sumuvuori from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, UN Youth Delegate Yuri Birjuli and Ronny Eriksson, founding member of the Ambitious Africa network.
The speakers emphasised the importance of increasing the active involvement of Africans, especially African young people. From the point of view of benefits achieved in society, the West and Finland should move towards a more equal partnership. It is important to increase tourism and student exchanges in order to improve mutual understanding and diversify the images of countries.
The young people at the workshop worked in groups on the objectives of the Africa strategy around the following four themes: peace and inclusion; climate and the environment; education, training and skills; and economic cooperation and entrepreneurship. Their thoughts on the themes and the strategy are summarised below.
Peace and inclusion
According to UN Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security, young people play an important and positive role in the maintenance and promotion of international peace and security. Peace requires opportunities for the future and inclusion in society, for example through work and education. Finland must support the implementation of this resolution in African countries and must encourage them to draw up national action plans that are as youth-oriented as possible.
It is essential to create new ways for young people to influence and participate. At the same time, the existing structures should be strengthened and the existing channels of influence better communicated. Efforts must also be made to strengthen established good practices, such as networks of youth delegates and youth organisations. At the same time, the diversity of young people must be taken into account, and intersectionality should be a cross-cutting theme of the strategy.
The rules concerning intra-African refugees must be adapted in a way that makes it easier for refugees to return to their country of origin. Young people living in diaspora communities should be consulted as experts by experience.
Climate and the environment
Existing solutions must be introduced in dealing with climate and environmental issues. It is essential to listen to local communities, as they are the ones most familiar with their environments and challenges. It is also important to show that an environmentally friendly approach is economically viable and offers a wide variety of opportunities.
Urbanisation must take into account renewable energy, waste management, land use planning and transport infrastructure. Solar energy, in particular, presents a great deal of potential. Education can be used to highlight entrepreneurial opportunities in climate and environmental issues, and it is worth investing in training opportunities in this sector.
People must recognise the impacts of their actions on Africa. For example, the use of natural resources must be taken into account and consideration must be given to whether value chains could be implemented locally.
Education, training and skills
Education is a prerequisite for sustainable social development. Education supports peace and stability, improves the position and leadership opportunities of girls and women, and promotes economic growth and entrepreneurship.
In the field of education, there is a great need for more reciprocal mobility paths between Finland and African countries. For example, student exchange programmes could be put to better use, and more exchange agreements could be concluded between higher education institutions. Support must also be given to improve African young people’s access to studies in Finland.
Intercultural understanding is a key basis for all cooperation, and all operators should have an understanding of the cultural diversity of African countries. The involvement of diaspora communities is integral. There must be arenas for encounters and cooperation projects between Nordic and African youth. Networking is key, and the opportunities offered by digital platforms must be taken into account.
The importance of and need for vocational education and training must also be taken into account. Finland is well prepared to share good practices with African countries where there is a need to improve vocational education and training. In addition, cooperation with businesses makes it possible to provide training that meets the needs of labour.
Economic cooperation and entrepreneurship
Finns need to have a better understanding of Africa, and Finnish companies need to be encouraged and supported in expanding into the African market. This cannot be achieved without mutual trust and genuine encounters and relationships. It is important to create networks with local people and local entrepreneurs. In addition, investments should be directed towards genuinely African-owned businesses.
Education enables equal trade relations and successful business activities. Investing in this is particularly important in fragile states. Africa is home to many micro-enterprises, but they do not have sufficient abilities to obtain funding and scale their business. With this in mind, Finland must support high-quality vocational education and training related to entrepreneurship and business in African countries.
Equality is in everyone’s interest. It is important to ensure that women and young people are involved in the cooperation between Finland and Africa and that their entrepreneurship is supported. It must be easy for young people to start and maintain a business. In order to encourage them, success stories and women’s entrepreneurship must be highlighted as examples.