On 15-17 August 2023, the 5th African Youth Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Summit will convene, continuing the largest youth forum on sustainable development in Africa. 

The 5th Summit will follow up on the event’s phenomenal success since its inception in 2017. The 3rd Summit brought together 1,500 young leaders from Africa and beyond to share success stories and imagine solutions for the SDGs. While this year’s event was originally planned as an in-person event in July, the event has been moved virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We aim to engage participants through innovative virtual channels and offer a collaborative digital space for participants, partners and interest groups in Africa and worldwide to share experiences and perspectives


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) constitute a shared international framework of development priorities to 2030 which aims to bring an end to extreme poverty, promote prosperity and wellbeing for all, protect the environment, address climate change, and encourage good governance and peace at global scale. They apply to all countries, including those in Africa. The core essence of the SDGs is to Leave No One Behind (LNOB) and therefore Africa like all other continents must endeavor to Leave No One Behind in the quest for achieving the SDGs and related targets.

The youth of Africa have a critical stake in ensuring the SDGs are achieved and a vital role to play in contributing towards their achievement. Gifted with innovation, imagination, energy and optimism, they are the key drivers of sustainable development at the local, national and global level. As the present and future inheritors of this planet, young people have the right as well as responsibilities to spearhead the sustainable development agenda and build synergy for a new system of development founded on knowledge sharing, cooperating and the prioritization of issues such as extreme poverty, climate change, increasing inequality, and a growing complexity of governance. Whilst the SDG 2030 Agenda requires African States to develop and implement policies and programmes to meet the challenges confronting Africa’s youth, it is important for the youth to recognize they themselves have an active and integral role to play in their own development.

Therefore, the focus of the African Youth SDGs Summit is on the Youth of Africa and the SDGs. Youth development and engagement are cross-cutting issues in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY) by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) identified 86 indicators, among the 232 of the SDGs, which are relevant and provide information on the development of youth. The Security Council Resolutions 2250 (2015) and 2419 (2018), acknowledging that young people play an important and positive role in the realization of sustainable development, in the prevention of crises and in the advancement of peace.

The priority areas of this strategy for the youth included Engagement, Participation and Advocacy; Informed and Healthy Foundations; Economic Empowerment through Decent Work; Youth and Human Rights and, Peace and Resilience Building. Similarly, the vision of UN Youth Strategy is a world in which the human rights of every young person are realized; that ensures every young person is empowered to achieve their full potential; and that recognizes young people’s agency, resilience and their positive contributions as agents of change. The strategy is based on the fact young people are critical assets for now and in the future and it is crucial to invest in them. The youth are connected to each other and contribute to the development of their countries through innovative solutions, inspiring and driving social and political change.

The African Union Agenda 2063 provides a coordinated framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years. It is built on and seeks to accelerate the implementation of past and existing continental initiatives for growth and sustainable development. The strategy has seven (7) major sections identified as “Aspirations”. The Sixth Aspiration provides the framework for the development of youth in Africa. Sections 50 to 58 provide specifics on how the strategy intends to create space for youth engagement and development in the affairs of the AU. It is worth noting that Article 11 of the African Youth Charter of AU also provides framework for countries to create space for youth engagement in all activities of the country. It is imperative that countries in Africa comply with the tenets of both SDG 2030 and AU Agenda 2063 as far as the development of youth is concerned.

It is therefore crucial that the youth mobilize themselves to engage with their leaders on appropriate strategies to benefit the youth. The youth must demand from their leaders, as duty bearers, a place at the table where critical decisions are made. To achieve this requires capacity development for the youth, including access to information and skills to enable their engagement. With about 11 years to 2030, it is important for all stakeholders working within the SDG framework to accelerate their efforts, including strengthening the capacity of the youth to ensure that No One is Left Behind. This essential agenda will form the focus of the Summit.

Summit Objectives

  • improve awareness and knowledge among the youth about the SDGs and their roles in the implementation, review and accountability process
  • discuss the mechanisms and strategies for localizing the SDGs and ensuring greater ownership by the youth
  • develop new and strengthen existing youth networks to engage and monitor the implementation of SDGs
  • advocate for effective participation of African Youth in SDG programmes affecting them.

Past Summits

From the Interactions of the past two Summits it was evident that the youth of Africa have become increasingly visible and effectively active in influencing national and continental policies with new ideas, philosophy and technological expertise if the space is created for them. Proactively they are engaging themselves in shaping the development of Africa using new tools of communications. They have the capacity to bring fresh perspectives to the present development approach and through critical thinking, innovation and their own style of communication, they can drive changes in their communities and countries as the future leaders. These are the kind of dynamics the youth are required to exhibit within the context of SDGs in advocating for the climate actions, influencing policymaking on education, health especially for girls, gender and inequalities and introducing new dimensions in the development approach through entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership. However, critical enabling environment needs to be created by State Actors to ensure that youth do not become mere passengers in their own development process. Key takeaways from the Summit are:

  • majority of young Africans continue to keep their innate high hopes and aspirations. There was a great deal of the depth of energy, innovation, creativity, resourcefulness and dynamism among the youth during the summit.
  • Despite the above situation, there remain several mismatches between their expectations and the opportunities that are available to them. The youth expressed great distaste for the systemic and growing culture of corruption on the African continent, and how this has consistently frustrated their hopes and aspirations.
  • They also expressed how government officials and public office holders continue to pay lip service towards the youth.
  • There was inadequate information of the youth on SDG 2030 and AU Agenda 2063 processes and how they can engage on these issues in their respective countries. This will require more education and localization of SDGs.
  • Youths were frustrated about inadequate funding opportunities and entrepreneurial capacity to set up their own business. The youth have expressed the desire to set up their own businesses.
  • Leaders skills and organizational skills were also lacking among some of the youth participating in the Summit. This prevents them from leading and engaging on issues affecting in their respective countries.
  • Lastly, there was evidence that there is inadequate interaction and exchanges between young people across countries in Africa. Many young people do not read or follow development issues happening in their next-door neighborhoods. This lack of interactions and exchanges is due to limited opportunity for exchange programmes, bilateral youth events or programmes within African countries as most government agreements omit components of youth inter-cultural exchanges. Additionally, the cost of Internet and barring Internet regulations in some counties restrict access to information, and to innovation and interactions among young people otherwise which could accelerate delivery of SDGs and development in rural African communities.