By Christine Lagat
NAIROBI, Dec. 20 (Xinhua) -- The rapid economic, social and political transformation witnessed in many African countries this decade is being catalyzed by the continent's youthful population.
Africa is reaping from a youth bulge that has provided abundant supply of skilled labor for the nascent industrial sector alongside creating a huge market niche for luxury goods manufactured locally or abroad.
Experts, youth leaders attending a Pan African Youth Conference in Nairobi told Xinhua on Thursday that Africa is entering a new era defined by economic growth, political stability and social progress.
"This is the century for Africa as the continent defies old stereotypes to become a significant player in global affairs. However, this transformation is being propelled by the youth as they actively engage in national development agenda," said Ojo Adebayo, a Nigerian youth leader attending the Nairobi conference.
The African Youth Conference on Post 2015 Development Agenda was attended by government officials, donors and youth leaders from ten Sub-Saharan African countries to discuss new development pathways for the continent.
Delegates agreed that Africa has made successes in some of the Millennium Development Goals though fresh momentum must be injected to reduce poverty, empower the youth and tackle a host of health and environmental challenges.
"Our governments should integrate the youth fully in both civic affairs and national development programs if Africa is to realize sustainable development aspirations," Adebayo said.
He stressed that African youth are willing to be part of the continent's transformation if governments rollout the necessary policy and legislative incentives.
Africa should harness the energies, passion and resilience of its youthful population to accelerate progress.
The Coordinator, UN Millennium Campaign, Mwaura Kaara, emphasized that African youth will shape the continent's future and governments' should incorporate them in all human endeavors.
"A new sustainable development agenda for Africa can only succeed if the youth are in the frontline. The June Rio + 20 Summit held underscored the involvement of the youth to accelerate economic and technological progress alongside ensuring equitable and inclusive growth," said Kaara
An estimated 65 percent of total population in Africa is below 35 years and countries are reaping from a demographic dividend as skilled youth enter the labor market.
The Acting Head, Office of External Relations, UN-HABITAT, Thomas Melin, noted that Africa is the new frontier for urbanization as the youthful population moves into cities in search of jobs, education and better living standards.
Melin stressed that an educated and skilled youthful population will enable Africa reap optimally from benefits associated with globalization.
"A larger pool of youth trained in the information technology (IT), engineering and business courses will benefit countries in a globalized era where movement of goods and services across borders is no longer limited," Melin said.
African youth have become devoted foot soldiers in advancing peace, civil liberties and political inclusiveness.
According to Hannah Taremwa, a Ugandan volunteer with a grassroots lobby group, the youth are playing major role in promoting communal welfare.
"Whether in the area of environmental conservation, human rights advocacy or championing for the rights of the marginalized, the youth have added their voice in these noble endeavors critical to advancement of their societies," Taremwa told Xinhua.