Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth”.

 Heal Zimbabwe joins the rest of Africa in celebrating Africa Day. This year’s commemorations are running under the theme, “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth”. Africa Day is the annual commemoration of the 1963 founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) which later become the Africa Union (AU).

This year’s theme underscores the need for African member states to invest in youths as they are an enormous resource for the continent’s development. For the full exploitation of potential of youths, there is need by member states to create a conducive environment for youths to enjoy fundamental human rights and freedoms. This involves ensuring that youths are protected from exploitation and abuse especially by political players. In Zimbabwe during past electoral episodes, youths have been abused and used by political parties to perpetrate political violence or further parochial political agendas.

The occasion of this year’s commemorations offer an opportunity for the Zimbabwean Government to take an inventory into how far it has gone in investing in youths in terms of development, leadership and economic upliftment. The Government should also review its efforts towards re-integrating youth victims and perpetrators of political violence through providing healing, justice and reconciliation. Most youths have been affected directly and indirectly by past violent political episodes creating a vicious cycle of intolerance and polarization.

Due to delays in setting up Independent Commissions that support democracy such as the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC), past epochs of political violence that have affected youths remain unaddressed. Youths in Zimbabwe today remain vulnerable to political manipulation and abuse.

Zimbabwe as member of the African Union must stand guided by provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights and International human rights instruments that promote and protect human rights and basic freedoms. In addition, one of the Aspirations of Agenda 2063, which is both a Vision and an Action Plan launched by the African Union in 2015, aims to achieve a peaceful and secure Africa where mechanisms for peaceful prevention and resolution of conflicts will be functional at all levels. As a first step, dialogue-centered conflict prevention and resolution must be actively promoted and a culture of peace and tolerance must be nurtured in Africa’s children and youth through peace education.