Central African Republic
The Central African Republic (CAR) is a context mired in successive crises. It is currently ranked 188th of 189 countries in the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Index (HDI). With 78% of the population of the CAR under 35 years old, young people represent the country’s present and future. Yet, despite their potential to play a pivotal role in their country’s recovery and in consolidating peace, young people face serious challenges. These are closely linked to weaknesses in the education system, the lack of support structures for young people and the unfavourable socioeconomic situation.
The “Masseka Bêkou Ti-Bé Africa” programme (“Youth, hope of the Central African Republic”) was established to support the CAR’s National Youth Policy. In particular, it seeks to promote the participation of young people in their key role in reconciliation. It does so by providing technical and financial support for youth institutions and youth centres throughout the CAR. The project is currently being implemented in the capital Bangui ( which includes 8 areas within the city itself + Bimbo and Begua neighbourhood) in two other areas of the country: the centre (Sibut, Bambari, Bria and – soon – Damara), south (Mbaiki) and the West (Bossangoa, Paoua and Bozoum).
Each dialogue session consisted The holistic approach guarantees sustainability. The youth centres receiving support benefit from minor renovations, equipment, grants to help them implement their action plans and trainings. This allows them to be autonomous in terms of their implementation.
The performance-based contracts with the youth centres link the results to the technical and financial support received. This encourages the management teams and the young people involved to take initiative and implement high-quality activities.
The local agents of the NGOs URU and COOPI are distributed across the 18 youth centres in the country, assisting in long-term capacity-building. Their technical backing helps support implemented activities, including literacy classes. There are also educational talks on topics such as the promotion of peace and social cohesion, gender-based violence and sexual health.
There are management committees within each Youth Centre to promote the effective participation of young people and improve accountability. The committees include representatives from young citizens, affiliated organisations, the municipality and executives of the Ministry of Promotion of Youth, Sport and Civic education. The youth representatives are selected by their peers following an electoral campaign.
PROGRAMME DESCRIPTION AND OUTCOMES
Although the government of CAR is prioritising youth in its National Policy for the Promotion of Second-Generation Youth, it has made limited clear initiatives toward its implementation. Concretely, young people were unsatisfied with the current state of youth policies in the CAR; only 27% of young people interviewed for the project’s baseline study viewed the management of their Youth Centre as satisfactory.
The “Masseka Bêkou Ti-Bé Africa” project, financed by the Bêkou Fund of the European Union, is therefore responding to the urgent need to support young people’s emancipation. It is aiding them in undertaking their role as actors of social cohesion and reconciliation in the CAR, in line with the National Policy for the Promotion of Second-Generation Youth. The project has revitalised youth centres and youth institutions in numerous regions of the CAR through recreational and community activities as well as mobilisation strategies. Young people in the project have now taken ownership of their role as actors of change. The director of the Bambari youth centre affirms this: “Now it is the young people who manage the youth centre. I am simply there to support them, and the activities are going well.”
The multiple crises that have hit the CAR have rendered large sections of the population extremely vulnerable, and created barriers between certain groups. The educational talks led by the youth centres have helped to reforge the bonds between youth. Literacy classes in particular have proved popular with certain audiences, notably young girls, increasing the presence of that demographic in youth centres. This was the case of Octavie, who – thanks to these classes – is now able to make plans for her future once again: “I left school when my father passed away. […] Today I can read and write, and I get 10/10 in spelling. I would not like my learning to stop here. I would like to continue and follow a specialised education. Maybe I will become a midwife or work in either hospitality or tailoring to have a better future.”
Young peoples’ involvement in managing the youth centres through their presence in the COGES (management committees) has made it possible to overcome the prejudices of inter-generational conflicts. By resolving longstanding disagreements between the directors of youth centres and the youths themselves, the two groups have learned to work together for the benefit of their community, particularly for the most vulnerable young people.
Another issues is that resources for young people limited and difficult to access. Those donors present in the CAR often consider youth as a cross-cutting issue, which makes estimating support for youth-relevant issues extremely difficult because there is currently no tool for measuring such investments. At a later stage, the project should be capable of supporting a sector consultation framework, making it possible to map the initiatives financed by the various donors in the CAR. Only a part of the needs identified in each of the 18 youth centres will be covered by the project, and a meeting between those organisations working in the same sector could make it easier to highlight the remaining unmet needs to the other donors.