In this transformative era of evolving policies and regulations that are part of the business environment, it is crucial to actively involve all segments of the population and especially young minds since the policies of today will impact how tomorrow looks. Quite often the reforms of policies and regulation are taken top-down excluding from the conversation large segments of the population. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) stands out as a rare example where youth were not only brought into the conversation but significantly influenced the dialogues, creating new opportunities for young people.
The Nile Youth Development Actions (NYDA) has been a catalyst for change, facilitating conversations about the AfCFTA for young entrepreneurs. This initiative empowered youth to play a role in the negotiations. John Magok, founder of NYDA, youth advocate, and expert in Minerals Resources Development at the African Union in Ethiopia explains how he thoroughly examined the AfCFTA, to understand all its details and potential advantages for youth. Magok encourages other young people to do the same, stating, “Once young people can identify these obstacles, it becomes easier to approach policymakers and engage in public-private dialogues aimed at promoting youth economic empowerment.”
NYDA collaborated with Uzalendo African Initiative and Evoke Research Primary Cooperative, to explore ways to make AfCFTA work for young men and women in the continent. This collaborative discourse not only paved new pathways for young people but also offered valuable guidance regarding accessing broader markets and expanding businesses beyond national borders. It addressed the knowledge gap that often hinders the proper participation and inclusion of young people and women in the implementation of such agreements.
The role of Public-Private Dialogues (PPDs)
The public-private dialogues launched in the context of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) are a good example on how this dialogue process can be key to ensure ownership among a wide range of stakeholder and also ensure that informed decisions can be made. They play an important role in the economic empowerment of young people. These forums provide a space for constructive discourse between the public and private sectors, serving as a bridge to address the concerns of young people. Inclusive PPDs create an environment conducive to the development of effective policies and initiatives. When young people can easily share their perspectives, business environments benefit from a better understanding of the evolving needs of the younger generation.
Challenges faced by young individuals
The AfCFTA case is an exception. Usually, young people’s voices are excluded in policies and regulations discussions that directly affect their businesses and job prospects. Multilateral agreements, like the AfCFTA, are designed to bring positive reforms, yet the voices of young people are often underrepresented in public-private discussions due to a lack of awareness about reforms and policies.
Moreover, the limited availability of support services for employment and empowerment add to the obstacles young people face in navigating the employment and business landscape. Societal stereotypes also hinder their voices in business environment reforms, impacting their economic pursuits. It is noteworthy that young women participate even less in PPDs due to a combination of factors, including discriminatory legislations, social norms, barriers in accessing finance, knowledge and other resources. To learn more about how to address these issues to promote Women’s Organisations into Public-Private Dialogues in order to foster Women’s Economic Empowerment in African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) Countries download the ICReport HERE.
Skills and knowledge for effective PPDs participation
To surmount these challenges, young individuals need to enhance their knowledge, leverage existing networks, and identify gaps and/or pinpoint the obstacles hindering them from securing jobs or running their businesses smoothly. These are effective communication skills, negotiation skills and networking, just to mention a few. Young people are also encouraged to develop a continuous learning mindset which will help them stay abreast of the reforms and policies that affect their business and employability prospects.
Advice for policymakers and private sector
Those engaged in public-private dialogues, including policymakers and private sector stakeholders, should proactively seek and attentively listen to the perspectives of young people. The invaluable experiences and aspirations they bring to the table are crucial for formulating reforms that align with the practicalities on the ground. Also, there should be avenues for mentorship programmes to guide young individuals through the complexities of public-private dialogues for youth inclusion and economic empowerment. Evidence also suggests that empowering young people in discussions that can influence the business environment is a worthwhile pursuit as ACP countries strive for sustainable economic growth.
The ICR Facility’s latest report, “Promoting Youth Participation in Public-Private Dialogue to Foster Business Environment Reform for Youth Economic Empowerment,” delves into the reasons behind the frequent exclusion of youth from PPDs in the ACP regions. It outlines ways in which the PPD process can be rendered more inclusive for youth, outlining the potential advantages of adopting such an approach. Additionally, the report highlights strategies for supporting business and trade associations with a focus on youth, enabling them to actively and effectively participate in PPDs. The report can be downloaded HERE.
Upcoming ICR Facility webinar on youth-inclusive PPDs for BER
Join us on 19th February 2024 at 15:00 – 16:30 CET / 2:00 – 3:30 GMT for a WEBINAR discussing youth participation in public-private dialogues to foster business environment reforms for youth economic empowerment.
This webinar provides an opportunity to discover the pivotal role that young people can play in shaping the business environment. Speakers will share real-world examples and case studies, and attendees will learn ways to bolster youth-focused businesses and trade associations enabling them for active PPDs participation as well as business environment reforms ensuring more inclusive PPD process with young men and women. Additionally, attendees will be able to participate in breakout rooms with key experts and practitioners, offering a chance to engage with peers and understand steps actors in ACP can take to support young people’s involvement in public-private dialogues.
You can register for the webinar below. It will be delivered in both English and French.