The Speaker of the Gambia National Assembly, Mrs Mariam Jack-Denton has spoken at the recent Pan-African Parliament in Midrand, South Africa where she spoke about emerging issues affecting the growth and intellectual development of the continent.
In her maiden address entitled ‘Harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in the youth’, Speaker Jack-Denton paid homage to the Gambian people for defending and developing the newfound freedom and democracy with support from the international community. “We have taken our country back from dictatorship and we are creating the conditions for the consolidation of the principles of good governance,” she said.
The Speaker said she was delighted to address a distinguished group of parliamentarians from all over Africa on a theme which resonated across the continent since the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Permanent Representatives Committee of the African Union selected it as its overarching theme.
“Here we are at the Pan-African Parliament to bring a parliamentary perspective to bear on the same issue. If we get it right in terms of strategies, investments and resource allocation, we will be putting our countries and the entire continent on the right trajectory for sustainable development. This is not only pertinent but very crucial to the peace, stability and security of our member states.’
On the burning issue of the day, the Gambian Speaker said the convergence comes at a time when public-private partnerships are rapidly gaining ground. She said youths in many countries such as The Gambia are distressed and in many cases are desperate to improve their living conditions. “We, in The Gambia and other West African countries around us have paid a heavy price through the so called ‘back way’ migration of our youth to Europe in search of greener pastures.
Our youths risk their lives through the harsh inhumane climatic conditions of the Sahara Desert and rough seas of the Mediterranean in a desperate attempt to find new lives in Europe,” Madam Jack-Denton said, pointing out that youth between the ages of 15 to 35 account for forty percent of the country’s population according to the 2013 population.
She disclosed that The Gambia has started to register some progress in the involvement of youths in the governance domain, arguing that this was evidenced by the sixty-five percent membership of the current parliament being of youthful age.
The Speaker wrapped up her speech at the Pan-African parliament with a resolute call for all hands to be deck to move the continent forward. “Honourable President and colleagues, now is the time to act and parliaments must take a more proactive role in this crusade. We cannot afford to fail, as we have no excuses or reasons to do so, because the challenges and bottlenecks can be and must be surmounted.”