With the backdrop of a growing continent that has an average age of 19 years, the Africa Health Agenda International Conference focused much attention on the African youth, placing him and her at the centre of health issues in Africa. Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the Regional Director of World Health Organization, Africa Regional Office, during a satellite session labelled Town Hall, with 25 youth representatives that had been selected from the over 2015 youth delegates that had attended the Youth Pre-Conference, noted that youth have been neglected from decision-making and policy development in health. “I like the slogan you created during the Pre-Conference, Nothing for us, without us,” she said during the Question and Answer session with the youth.
Currently, young people are the most affected by HIV/AIDs in the world. With 39% of all new HIV infections being registered by youth between the ages of 13 and 29, Africa’s future is worrying. To curb this, Dr Moeti believes that engaging the youth in the transformational agenda is key. “I was pleased to hear of the formation of the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership in Research (EDCTP) that has accommodated youth researchers and even gone further to offer them training on the same. It is time for the youth to stop being research subjects and become researchers,” she said. One of the challenges that has limited the involvement of the youth in decision-making and policy development of health issues in Africa is cultural barriers as it is believed that only the elderly have the knowledge and wisdom to make such decisions.
“If strategies we make are viable and can be delivered to the youth, then the same strategies can work for everyone else,” she said.
In closing, Dr Moeti urged the youth present to speak to other youths and create a network of informed and empowered young minds. “You are just a handful here today but you represent all youths out there. Be their face, their voice and make leadership in your different countries feel your presence.”