I. The Context
According to the African Youth Charter, youth refers “to every person between the ages of 15 and 35 years”.
According to the UN Youth Report (2005), Ethiopia is among the 10 countries with the largest concentration of young people living on less than US$1 a day. She also has one of the highest concentration of undernourished young people in Sub Saharan Africa.
Ethiopia’s youth access to education, employment, health and social services, participation in decision-making, and access to information and communication technology is among the lowest in Sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, Ethiopia has one of the highest urban unemployment rates worldwide, at about 50 per cent of the youth labor force (Denu, Tekeste, and Deijl 2005).
In addition, Ethiopian youth have been the target of government repression, from the 1960s up to and including the present, for demanding that their rights to lead a life of dignity, free from social, political and economic exclusions and repression, be recognized.
The present situation of youth does not presage a bright future for the current pre-youth generation, i.e., the 41.7% of Ethiopia’s population that is now under the age of 15.
Ethiopian youth, like the majority of Ethiopians, are confronted with monumental obstacles that prevent them to choose and act freely in ways that permit their human flourishing. But obstacles to human flourishing are also invitations to reflect on possible ways of overcoming these obstacles.
It is therefore imperative that we Ethiopians reflect on the conditions of our youth in order to understand
• the internal and external adversities they confront daily,
• how they struggle to overcome these adversities,
• what could be done to ensure the full development of their potentials,
• how and what invaluable contributions, despite the difficult circumstances in which they live, they have made
• to advance the cause of freedom, development and social justice, and
• to enrich Ethiopian cultures
• the alternatives futures that are open to them
The strength of Ethiopia’s youth lies, as they have demonstrated since the 1960’s, in their capacity to imagine a different future, to mobilize utopian energies, and to reflect critically on how to bridge the gulf between the past, the present and the future.
The conference on the “Ethiopia’s Youth, Ethiopia’s Future” is designed to be a forum that reflects, in the discussion of the various youth related issues, the imagination, the utopian energies, and critical reflection that are the birthmarks of Ethiopia’s youth.
For the purpose of this Conference, youth refers to youth in both urban and rural areas of Ethiopia and to those in the Diaspora.