AU-EU Youth Hub: kickstarting new approaches with youth in the driving seat

The first Hub session (November 2018) was dedicated to building innovative projects based on the priorities presented by Youth at the AU-EU Abidjan Summit. The second Hub session (November 2019) kick-started project implementation, enabling the 42 youth from the Hub to engage with 7 selected Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) leading the pilot projects. During this session, the AU-EU Youth Hub reported on the year of support from the Scale-Up Committee and presented concrete roadmaps for each pilot project.

Date : 12 November 2019

Paris, France – Grande Halle de La Villette, Agora 1

Watch the full session


  • Moderator : Jean Constantinesco, AU-EU Youth Hub project leader, European Union Delegation to the African Union
  • Pierre Buyoya, High Representative of the AU for Mali and the Sahel, African Union
  • Koen Doens, Director General, Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development at the European Commission (DEVCO)
  • Arancha Gonzalez, Executive Director, Chair, International Trade Centre (ITC)
  • Mo Ibrahim, Founder & Chairman, Mo Ibrahim Foundation
  • Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, President, United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)

AU-EU Youth Cooperation Hub Experts:

  • Khadijat Abdulkadir, AU-EU Youth Cooperation Hub, Business & Job Creation Cluster
  • Martin Dethier, AU-EU Youth Cooperation Hub, Governance Cluster
  • Antonette Ncube, AU-EU Youth Cooperation Hub, Environmental Preservation and Climate Change Cluster
  • Ademulegun Olowojoba, AU-EU Youth Cooperation Hub, Education & Skills Cluster
  • Aryana Francesca Urbani, AU-EU Youth Cooperation Hub, Peace & Security Cluster
  • Daphne Van Dam, AU-EU Youth Cooperation Hub, Arts & Sports Cluster

“ ‘How dare you?’ Greta [Thunberg] asked. We dared, and now we dare YOU!”

Martin Dethier, AU-EU Youth Cooperation Hub, Governance Cluster

Key takeaways from the discussion

The AU-EU Youth Cooperation Hub is a special Afro-European initiative, an innovative way of bringing together African & European youth, developing and piloting projects to tackle common challenges in the AU-EU in 6 key areas: environment, business, governance, culture, peace & security and education. With the support of a 10-million-euro budget, 6 innovative pilot projects are being implemented by civil society organizations unfolding in 17 African & European countries. This dynamic project of youth thinking and acting together was showcased during the first edition of the Paris Peace Forum in November 2018 and got selected to benefit from a one-year support from the Scale-up Committee. The hub is innovative in 3 ways:

  1. It includes 42 young people, looking at common challenges from different angles and overseeing the use of the funds
  2. With the nature of the 6 pilot projects
  3. There’s an integrated governance approach including young people from institutions, civil society organizations, the private sector and government

The Hub just finished 4 days of meetings with civil society organizations with the support and participation of DEVCO and the Agence française de développement (AFD) and officially announced that the CSOs were joining the Hub.

Six young experts gave a short overview of the current status of the project they are working on in their respective cluster:

Aryana Francesca Urbani (Italy) – Peace & Security Cluster

Context: The Lake Chad Basin region has been plagued by extremism and violence for decades. There is a gap between political intervention intentions and the reality on site for youth.

Project: aims to map and track basic services and stability vectors in the region in real time.

Innovation: Data will be collected and analyzed by young women and men from the region. It will empower them in the process and engage them in a broader political process in this crisis settings. It will bring better coordination between humanitarian and development actors engaged on the ground thanks to data. The objective is also to implement and operationalize the AU strategies and efforts for Lake Chad.

Ademulegun Olowojoba (Nigeria) Education & Skills Cluster

Context: Access to quality education is still a challenge for many. According to Unesco, 64 million young people still don’t have access to quality education and many who do have access are not learning what would give them value in today’s world.

Project: will equip 1000+ students in Mali and Spain with skills of the 21st century, especially in STEM education, or skills like leadership to become active citizens in the society. It also works to help 180 teachers pass these skills to students.

Innovation: Co-creation and involvement of young people from evaluation of learning needs to implementation or governance of the project

Khadijat Abdulkadir (Belgium/Nigeria) Business & job creation Cluster

Context: According to the United Nations, 15 million jobs should be created by 2035.

Project: “A Green Start” – led across 5 African countries in the Maghreb region and Burkina Faso will focus on accelerating entrepreneurs in agriculture and renewable energy

Goal: South-South cooperation and partnership across the region with 8 incubators that will impact 150 startups and tech platforms. But also influence measuring success, metrics of leadership, promote more informed economic balance for partnerships in the region.

Daphne Van Dam (The Netherlands) Culture, Arts & Sports Cluster

Context: Art can play a role in the resolution of conflicts or the integration of refugees. Art can connect the seemingly unconnected, but how to make a living from art? Often, artists don’t have access to the network or the tools they need to be successful.

Project: designed by youth for youth, it sparks positive behavioral change and turns passion of creative persons into sustainable business. Thanks to a cultural entrepreneurship hub and a digital platform, people can collaborate, exchange between countries and continents, and find funding or market opportunities for their projects. The results will be featured through different cultural festivals in 2021.

Antonette Ncube (Botswana), Environment cluster

Context: The climate change impact in the Sahel brought a major environmental crisis in the region that includes land degradation and shifting grazing areas

Project: collaborative approach with Oxfam Spain and Burkina Faso with the goal to regreen and plant trees in the Sahel region. Civil society organizations will lead the project in the area.

Innovation: With a digital platform combining geo-mapping of the progress and payment for an ecosystem service scheme that will reward locals involved in the regreening value chain, this project will aim to pioneer both social and technological innovation. The process will integrate drones and satellite tracking to use image sensing. Communication campaigns led by youth for youth will be launched to raise awareness in communities in the Sahel region. It will put in the spotlight initiatives done in the Sahel area for the world to see and support.

Martin Dethier (Belgium), Governance cluster

Context: Youth piloted actions that deliver concrete results are still rare and should be developed and encouraged. “Collaboratively designing projects is very powerful.”

Project: builds on the global youth movements for climate, but brings it down to earth to communities and creates climate governance processes at a local level. The project is a youth-led monitoring of local government commitments on climate action, linking two cities of Ireland and Tanzania. SAUTI-Youth (which means “my voice”) bridges and supports 1000+ youth in both countries to engage in governance accountability. They will collect data locally and disseminate it.

Impact: The project will act as a toolbox which can be replicated in other countries, and expanded to other topics.

Ahead of the 2020 project implementation phase on the ground, five prominent international figures shared their thoughts on these initiatives

Koen Doens, Director General, Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development at the European Commission (DEVCO)

Mr. Koens confessed that he originally found the idea of the Hub created in Abidjan both exciting and scary. But it was a bet worth making as this initiative is now inspiring the future for 2 reasons:

  • First because of the importance attached to monitoring and accountability. He said it is “great to see that youth has ambition but with feet on the ground, wants to see, track, evaluate and monitor results.”
  • Second, the initiative shows the benefits of including other types of actors in the processes of co-creation. Usually there is a chain of command with institutions that channel money and design plans, then implementers and last, beneficiaries. The Hub brought these three layers together. “Inclusiveness is also one of the challenges of our times and you are succeeding in creating it,” he said with enthusiasm. That goes beyond inequalities.

Pierre Buyoya, High Representative of the AU for Mali and the Sahel, African Union

There is a strong demand from young people on the African continent to be better included. This is all the more necessary since in some countries, they make up to 60% of the population, but governments are unsure about how to go about it. With this initiative, young people have come up themselves with creative ideas and ways to do their part.

It is also a great example of innovation of North-South cooperation: within this framework, projects are co-created, co-experimented and co-implemented with equal contributions from both continents.

Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, President, United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)

The UNGA President praised “a remarkable model of cooperation, which shows the promise of multilateralism in action.” He went on to stress the courage of young people to confront real problems and their confidence to succeed.

The Hub embodies a model of development showing that problems are now global and no longer limited to the North or the South only and thus the notion of co-creation is now central to finding common solutions.

Arancha Gonzalez, Executive Director, Chair, International Trade Centre (ITC)

ITC Director said she was particularly fond of the equal level of partnership between Europe and Africa in this initiative, and the co-creation, and co-design approach of the projects. She added that test of the pudding will be whether this model can be replicated and scaled up. Her suggestions to do that were:

  • In terms of design, she recommended to think of the structure of the intervention and define where it starts and where it should go. Which would then enables to set a logical set of steps to follow with a structured program.
  • She also suggested to create a set of indicators to measure the progress and success of each project
  • She also encouraged the young people to work with business actors and digital operators on both continents to scale up and go for big names on the market that can help and co-create with them.
  • Finally she observed that youth engagement for environment protection has been strong in the past years, but we also need big voices on peace and multilateralism. “We need to hear more of the youth demand on these topics. Here’s a good place to speak up,” she concluded.

Mo Ibrahim, Founder & Chairman, Mo Ibrahim Foundation

Mo Ibrahim expressed his excitement for the idea of the EU and AU working together and his gratitude to the EU for this initiative. He pointed “We keep hearing criticism about EU, but we never say thank you!” He urged the young people to try and define what their impediments/problems/barriers in their work are (eg. if they meet problems when collecting data, or with red tape and bureaucracy or if governments get in their way or are not supportive enough). Identifying what holds back people and entrepreneurs is crucial.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation was one of the first to bet on this evidence-based approach and is keen to showcase the initiative during its annual flagship event, The Ibrahim Governance Weekend.

The session concluded with another example of a fruitful AU-EU collaboration: a musical number from the MAISHA project, an Afro-European Music Experiment – gathering musicians from the two continents.


Read contributions on the Paris Peace Forum Medium blog by Mo Ibrahim and Arancha Gonzalez.

Subscribe to the newsletter