“We look to the youth of Africa to become more focused and more aware of the challenges facing this beautiful continent, so that you can be ready to take Africa to greater heights,” he said in a speech prepared for delivery in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg.
Zuma said the congress was important because it provided an opportunity to reflect on issues of youth development in Africa. The youth was regarded by the African Union (AU) as its greatest resource.
“It is reported that Africa is the youngest continent in the world, and that about 70 percent of the population is 30 years of age or younger.
“We thus pride ourselves in Africa of having more than 600 million young people,” Zuma said.
The congress’s theme was apt: “Youth Moving Africa Forward”.
Africa’s youth still faced problems, including unemployment and inadequate access to education and health care, and these were more acutely felt in rural areas.
“Africa continues to record strong economic growth, despite the weaker global economic environment. At the same time, there are obstacles to growth.”
Increased investment in infrastructure was needed to alleviate growth constraints.
“We need your contribution to discuss ways in which the continent can be able to utilise its resources and raw materials more profitably, instead of enriching the world where these resources are sent without promoting self-reliance and sustainability locally,” Zuma told delegates.
He urged them to come up with innovative ways to ensure that African resources were put to their best use to benefit all Africans.
“It is therefore incumbent upon the youth to forge unity among themselves and use their energy and drive to ensure the total success of the [AU] Agenda 2063.”
When the year 2063 came, this generation of youth would be expected to hand over a better Africa to the youth, Zuma said.
“The Africa you will hand over… should be free from war and conflict, disease, hunger, homelessness, extreme poverty and all other social ills engineered and sustained by actions of human beings.
“It must be an Africa that is at peace with itself in every corner. While Africa is making progress economically, there still exist pockets of conflict around the continent,” he said.