Global Citizen NOW urges investment in Sub-Saharan Africa and youth outreach

NEW YORK — This week’s Global Citizen NOW conference called for long-term investments in the African continent’s fast-growing youth population and for greater outreach to young changemakers around the world, as the international advocacy group looks to direct resources to the fight against the poverty.

The conflict-ridden international scene has made it even more important that political, business and philanthropic leaders support education and health care in the least developed countries, said Hugh Evans, CEO of Global Citizen. Some of the biggest requests of the week included $6 billion for economic development in Africa and $600 million for a United Nations-administered fund to support education during emergencies.

“I don’t need to lecture anyone about polarization,” Evans told The Associated Press. “But I do think that the consequence of this is that people can sometimes feel completely hopeless and powerless. My only hope is that our platform continues to stand for clear, decisive, practical actions that citizens can take to change the world for good.”

To achieve its goals, the two-day conference in New York leaned on the star power of former ambassador Hugh Jackman, Oscar-winning actress Michelle Yeoh and Brazilian singer Anitta. In fact, Vice President Kamala Harris’ husband Doug Emhoff made an unpublished appearance Wednesday to discuss the need for men to actively combat sexism and defend reproductive rights.

Danai Gurira, star of The Walking Dead and Black Panther, said more Western aid alone is not enough. African countries really need self-determinism because “we are far from uprooting ourselves from colonialism,” said the Iowa-born actress who grew up in Zimbabwe.

“We are ridiculously rich, from the cobalt to the lithium, from the diamonds to the rubber and the oil,” she said. “But you often see that we have no control over it.”

About 60% of Africa’s population is under the age of 25 – a huge asset that only needs more opportunities, according to two-time Super Bowl champion Osi Umenyiora. The former defensive end discussed his work spearheading efforts there to provide the training necessary for international athletes to attract the attention of college scouts and eventually play professionally.

The NFL has academies in the United Kingdom and Australia. Umenyiora said he hopes to add facilities in countries such as Nigeria, Kenya and Morocco by 2030.

“The best athletes in the world, in my opinion, are in Africa,” Umenyiora told the AP. “They just haven’t been developed yet. They are not trained.”

The conference followed the announcement that Global Citizen will co-host an economic summit in Ivory Coast this fall. The aim is to increase foreign aid to sub-Saharan Africa, where the workforce is expected to double by 2050 but many lack access to electricity.

Speakers emphasized that world leaders must now help bridge this gap if they are to realize the region’s full potential. Foreign aid can work, they said, despite recent attempts by once-generous, debt-saddled governments to reduce the amounts allocated to developing countries.

Former Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has presented development aid as a mutually beneficial investment, and not as a one-sided act of charity.

“Why not use the world’s full potential?” asked Lofven, who set a target of spending 1% of Sweden’s gross national income on aid during his term in office.

The conference also marked Global Citizen’s efforts to engage Generation Z in its 12 million-member network. The organization recently paired more than 300 young leaders with officials, including World Bank President Ajay Banga, during the first international edition of Global Citizen NOW.

Nonpartisan civic engagement groups HeadCount and I Am A Voter announced a merger during a panel on Thursday, in an effort to leverage the power of musicians and brands to increase youth voter registration as the U.S. presidential election heats up.

Other speakers shared strategies for authentically connecting with youth online. Anitta told the AP that she teaches classes on Instagram Live so her fans can join her in learning about environmental issues like protecting rainforests.

Actor Jordan Fisher acknowledged that seemingly insurmountable student loans or the unaffordable housing market can leave young people feeling politically lost. He emphasized that voting is just one way to get involved.

Fisher also identifies new platforms to empower Global Citizen members. As an avid gamer, he advises the organization in developing a gaming division. He said livestreaming services like Twitch can be a great tool to raise money and draw attention to audiences tuning in to their favorite creators.

“It’s some of the most authentic work that can be done. They’re just people. And it’s just us. They are people,” Fisher told the AP.

“The power of gaming is enormous.”


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