MONROVIA-Under the auspices of the Embassy of South Africa to Liberia, youth leaders from Pretoria, South Africa, and student leaders from the University of Liberia have participated in a fruitful interactive roundtable dialogue.
The one-day dialogue was held Thursday, February 2, 2023, on the University of Liberia Capitol Hill Campus ahead of a dialogue planned to be held on Friday, February 3, 2023, meant to deliberate on Sustainable Youth Development, Peace, Security, and Reconciliation.
Organized by the South African Embassy in Liberia, the dialogue was intended to give young people and students the platform to look at their role in sustaining peace and development in the country.
On H.E. Amb. Igbal Jhazbhay’s delegation to UL was the youth leaders from Pretoria Ms. Nonceba Mhlauli, Spokesperson of the Minister in the Presidency and Convener of the African National Congress (ANC) National Youth Task Team (NYTT); and Mr. Khulekani Skosana, Vice President of the International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY).
Representing student leaders from the University of Liberia were Mr. Siaffa Bahn Kemokai, President of the Federation of African Law Students (FALAS); Madam Patricia S. Gray, President of the Liberia Medical Students Association (LMSA); Mr. Varfee Dukuly, President of UL Interim Student Leaders; and the Chairman of the Students Unification Party (SUP), among others.
Welcoming the guests, Prof. Dr. Jonathan Taylor, UL Vice President for Graduate Studies, said he was very happy that under the auspices of the South African Embassy, the dialogue was held particularly in a crucial election year in Liberia.
On behalf of the President of the University of Liberia Prof. Dr. Julius J.S. Nelson, Jr., Dr. Taylor welcomed the guests from Pretoria.
He thanked Ambassador Jhazbhay for conceiving the program looking at the role of youths in sustaining Liberia’s peace and development.
“The role of youths in development cannot be overstated and today even in Liberia, we depend on our youths,” said Dr. Taylor.
He said peace and development go together, and the University of Liberia recognizes the role of youths in achieving that.
The South African Ambassador to Liberia H.E. Igbal Jhazbhay said the idea of peace is not easy in any part of the world.
He recalled that three days after attending Liberia’s Independence Day which was observed on July 26, 2022, a few members of the international community, specifically Ambassadors, got together.
In their gathering, he said each envoy was asked to outline what would be the priority of their country.
He said the French and Germans spoke about reconciliation, the Chinese spoke of sustainable development, and the South Africans outlined the importance of youth development and economic opportunities.
“So, for that reason and many of the reasons given by Dr. Jonathan Taylor earlier, we have opted to focus on that particular area,” said Amb. Jhazbhay.
The South African Envoy stated that this year is a critical year for Liberia on several fronts.
Besides committing needed equipment to support Liberia’s upcoming elections to collate results transparently, Amb. Jhazbhay said staff from South Africa’s Independent Electoral Commission will be coming also to Liberia once the requisite processes are followed.
The Dean of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law at the University of Liberia, Prof. Dr. Jallah A. Barbu, said he was pleased to acknowledge the kindness of the South African brothers and sisters to Liberia and to thank Ambassador Jhazbhay for his very helpful role.
In her presentation at the dialogue, Ms. Nonceba Mhlauli said as young people from South Africa, they were quite excited to engage other young people on the University campus to explore ideas about how to ensure a better Africa and a better world.
She encouraged university students to question the curriculum of their education in terms of how it further develops an African agenda that will ensure that the African condition is changed.
Looking at the economic conditions and all of the companies that are investing, she wondered where the young people in those companies were.
In South Africa, she said they have advocated that for every government contract that goes out, 30 percent should go to youths to ensure that the economy is opened up.
Earlier, Mr. Khalekani Skosana urged unity among Africans, especially young people for the full attainment of the liberation of the African Renaissance.
Rather than building refinery companies on the continent that will produce and export finished goods, he lamented that all of the mineral resources extracted from African countries are sent abroad.
“It should not be like that anymore. We must pride ourselves in eating African food and wearing African clothes. This is the only way that we will build our continent. We must take pride in using African products,” he added.
Ms. Patricia S. Gray, President of the Liberia Medical Students Association (LMSA) said the development of every country depends on the younger people, urging her colleagues around the table to help share public health knowledge to cut down the burden on the public health system.
As young people, she said the social vice problem has been a challenge, and the National Youth Policy speaks about drug and alcohol abuse.
She observed that a lot of young people are consuming shisha (hookah), telling the dialogue that three puffs of shisha are equal to a pack of cigarettes.
Additionally, Ms. Gray suggested that through such a dialogue, advocates should consider how national youth policies afford young people the opportunities to achieve their goals of becoming Medical Doctors.
Mr. Siaffa Bahn Kemokai, president of the Federation of African Law Students, hailed the South African Ambassador for his efforts aimed at ensuring that youth development is a key priority of his Embassy.