The vibrant youth of West Africa are clamoring for the establishment of cutting-edge innovation hubs across various ECOWAS member states. They are also demanding a significant boost in investment in digital entrepreneurship and the implementation of grassroots initiatives that utilize digital technology to enhance peace and security.

Their rationale is that by introducing training in emerging technologies into school curricula from an early age, through effective partnerships with national education ministries, the youth will be well-equipped to tackle the challenges of the 21st century with seamless ease.

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These bold demands were brought to the forefront during the momentous 2024 Youth Voices for Change Summit, held on the 6th of June in Accra, Ghana.

The youth, driven by their own aspirations and aspirations for their respective national governments and the ECOWAS Commission, stressed the urgent need for political will to adopt transformative Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

They firmly believe that such technology has the power to uplift the region by generating employment opportunities in critical sectors like agriculture, security, and telecommunications.

In their comprehensive 40-point declaration, the youth also positioned themselves as avid users of social media and social networks, recognizing their potential to create jobs and promote advocacy campaigns to reach a wider audience.

Furthermore, the youth pledged their willingness to actively combat cybercrime, terrorism, and the marginalization of young people. They called for mentoring programs that inspire and equip the youth for modern job opportunities, as well as funding for startups to enable self-realization.

Additionally, the youth emphasized the importance of their active participation in policy discussions and advocacy, aligning with the UN Security Council Resolution 2250 and ECOWAS Vision 2050.

During the summit, the youth critically analyzed the current peace and security landscape in the region, considering the role of technology in accelerating regional stability and growth.

They also highlighted the existence of innovative digital initiatives spearheaded by young individuals that are not widely recognized but hold immense potential.

Concluding the summit, the Director of ECOWAS Youth and Sports Development Centre, Ambassador Francis Njoaguani, who represented the ECOWAS Commission’s Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace, and Security, expressed the Commission’s unwavering commitment to supporting the youth in building a prosperous and peaceful region together.

These sentiments echoed the remarks of Mr. Constant Gnacadja, Ag Head of the Mediation and Coordination of Regional Political Affairs at the ECOWAS Commission, who emphasized the importance of sustaining the flame of partnership.

Officials from supportive organizations, such as Mr. Alimou Diallo from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Mr. Vincent Azumah from the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), underscored the necessity for continued positive engagement with the region’s youth.