C4C Event: Youth in EU-Africa Relations

Capacity4Change (C4C) | How to best support young people’s needs in COVID-19 times

Young people in Africa have been deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic and social consequences. Access to quality education, disposable income, decent work, health, and well-being have been jeopardized, putting millions of young people at risk. Young people should be at the core of programmes aimed at ‘building back better’ in the context of the response to the COVID-19 global health pandemic and economic and social crisis. This event showcased and gave room to interactively exchange on best practices that guarantee young people access to

  • adequate, accessible and quality health services, including youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services
  • youth inclusion in governance and decision-making & meaningful participation of young people
  • digital skills development and a transformation of learning cultures to increase the global competition chances on the labor market


Event Report

On the 29th of June 2021 an online C4C event, organised by the GIZ Representation in Brussels, in cooperation with the Deutsche Stiftung für Weltbevölkerung (DSW) took place. The event focused in particular on how to best support young people’s needs in COVID-19 times, and how to take forward lessons learned from the pandemic.

Siegfried Leffler (Director, GIZ Representation in Brussels) opened the event underlining that the considerations about how to put young people at the core of programmes aimed at ‘’building back better’’ should be as diverse as the young population of Africa and the challenges they are facing.

Annica Floren (acting Head of Unit, Youth, Education and Culture at DG INTPA) highlighted the importance of youth participation as a personal priority to Commissioner Urpilainen but also as a cross-cutting priority for the Directorate for International Partnerships. With 75% of the population in Africa being under 30, Floren stressed the necessity to include young people in decision-making processes and consider them as partner. According to the recently conducted #YourVoiceYourFuture study by the European Union, African Union and UNICEF, 91% of the young population in Europe and Africa are keen to be more involved in decision making. In order to better deliver on youth participation and empowerment, DG INTPA is taking a number of actions to place youth at the heart of the Africa-EU partnership: A Youth Sounding Board for DG INTPA, Youth Focal Points at the EU Delegations and the appointment of the new Special Adviser on Youth. She also emphasised that the European Commission aims at adopting a Youth Action Plan in 2022 which will include targeted consultations with youth organizations. She added that DG INTPA increases its commitment to youth to 10% of the budget, in order to make education, trainings and skills a common strategic priority of the EU and Africa.

Bitania Lulu Berhanu (Special Adviser on Youth to Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen), underscored that when talking about youth one has to keep in mind the broad diversity among young people in terms of gender identity, religion, disabilities, living conditions, geographical location, ethnicity, sexual orientation and their varied access to infrastructure, technology and internet connectivity.  Young people have a lot to offer; bringing innovative ideas and creativity to the table. She explained that meaningful engagement means institutionalizing youth inclusion, participation, and leadership and that youth cooperation with other generations must be facilitated.
She underlined the importance of access to adequate and affordable health services, including youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) services, stressing that there are sadly still multifaceted barriers that young people face in accessing such services. She added that in order to enable youth access to education, health, political inclusion and employability, it is necessary to promote digital tools and skills, but also provide connectivity and access to information. Digitalization bares great opportunities for the young generation which already has an understanding of how technology can be a catalyst for development.


Participants were then invited to join virtual breakout rooms that showcased best practices and gave room for discussions:

Session 1: Adequate, accessible, and quality health services, including youth friendly SRHR services

In this session DSW presented case studies on how to ensure access to youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services. Philis Wabwire, Project Coordinator, and Miriam Chebet, Youth Mentor from the DSW Holistic Action Project for Adolescents (HAPA) in Kenya presented lessons learned over the last year. The HAPA project is supporting more than 7,000 young adolescents through fourteen school clubs, aiming to increase access to adequate youth-friendly SRHR services and information. Some of the challenges faced included:

  • Youth empowerment clubs and school closures
  • Limited access to SRH and family planning services
  • Increased Gender-Based Violence andEarly Marriages

An out-of-school peer learning approach was adopted to attempt to counteract the challenges posed by the pandemic, and various media channels, including radio and social media were used to share accurate and digestible information. Some of the lessons learned from this included:

  • the need to strengthen digital solutions and invest in digital literacy
  • train medical professionals for youth-friendly service provision
  • invest in a sound adolescent policy environment, to ensure young people can participate in political and public life

Monica Basemera from the TeamUp Project in Uganda gave insight into how they adapted to ensure continuous service delivery during the pandemic. The TeamUp project is a pilot that is aiming to support 50,000 young people in Uganda. One of the alternative ways of communicating during lockdowns that the project adopted was the TeamUp Hour radio show recorded remotely on WhatsApp then aired on a local station and made available on a SoundCloud page. Joined by diverse guests, the show covered all sectors of health, agriculture, and water, as well as sharing accurate and up-to-date information about COVID-19.


Session 2: Youth Inclusion in Governance and decision making

In this session Dambisa Dube (GIZ) presented the case study “The Countdown 2030, 2063 and beyond”, a youth-organized conference with youth participants from Africa and Germany aimed to provide support to young people to explore solutions to climate concerns within their local context. The key differentiator of the Countdown Conference was that it was planned entirely digitally by teams of young people who had never met prior to the event. As the Coronavirus pandemic hit, the approaches and lessons learnt from the Countdown 2030 provided a tried and validated method to engaging young people across borders in the absence of travel and permitted to optimise the use of digital space for human interaction.

During the discussion, the participants agreed on the importance of bearing in mind the barriers and potential exclusion factors, such as infrastructural challenges in rural zones and the need of investments made into capacity building to equip all young people to engage meaningfully and effectively in the digital space. They added that there is a high risk of excluding informal groups (non-institutionalized forms) and that identifying nuanced participation patterns among young people factoring gender, education level, place of origin etc. is necessary. Translating meaningful activism through the virtual space is not always a representation of the masses and can be perceived as a very exclusionary format for the ‘elite’ e.g. those who are less outspoken, those who have no access to data or handsets etc. They also highlighted that there is a risk of false information with no fact checking being shared which could delegitimize youth engagement and participation in politics.


Session 3: Digital Skills for All – Co-Creating Chances for a Digital Future

In this session, Christa Crusius (GIZ), Advisor BACKUP Initiative, explained that digital skills form the basis for the digital transformation of societies and economies worldwide. This is especially applicable for youth, but also for all other age groups: from cradle to grave, everyone is affected by their level of digital skills, already now and even more in the digital future. She added that focusing on digital skills as a life-long learning process also means that this is not only included in the formal education sector, but also in non-formal education and autodidactic learning.

The session looked at the motivation of learners and highlighted the importance of identifying the added value to obtain digital skills. The discussion focused on the motivation of youth; specifically on gamification, mentorship programs, and how COVID has potentially affected the outlook on the future for a lot of young learners. Furthermore, the digital divide (gender & urban/rural) was identified as an important challenge. Participants agreed that young people are not only the beneficiary, but also the provider of digital skills: peer learning and buddy systems can have a big impact and young people can contribute on how to teach and learn digital skills best It was also stressed that to support the transformation of the education ecosystem, it is necessary to connect local actors, networks and partnerships with international players, especially also the private sector.

Lisa Goerlitz, Head of Brussels Office, DSW closed the event, by thanking all the participants, and stressing that only by focusing on youth needs can we make sure they can lead healthy and self-determined lives. She added that digitalization which was accelerated by the pandemic is a huge opportunity in health and youth inclusion in decision-making processes, but she reminded that to make full use of those opportunities, more equal access is necessary.


Many thanks to all participants and especially to our speakers. Please do not hesitate to contact giz-brussels@giz.de with questions or feedback.


Capacity4Change (C4C) is an event series in Brussels organised by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in cooperation with selected partner institutions and organisations. C4C aims to enrich the Brussels policy debate with practical know-how and implementation experiences. It features innovative approaches, challenging analyses, interesting publications and thought-provoking ideas.