Global Citizen Now Urges Investment In Sub-Saharan Africa And Youth Outreach

Hugh Evans, CEO of Global Citizen, left, listens as Actor Danai Gurira, center, addresses attendees of the Global Citizen Now conference, Wednesday, May 1, 2024, in New York. Fran Katsoudas is right. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
Hugh Evans, CEO of Global Citizen, left, listens as Actor Danai Gurira, center, addresses attendees of the Global Citizen Now conference, Wednesday, May 1, 2024, in New York. Fran Katsoudas is right. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
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NEW YORK (AP) — This week's Global Citizen NOW conference featured appeals for long-term investments in the African continent's fast-growing youth population and increased outreach to young changemakers worldwide, as the international advocacy organization seeks to drive resources toward antipoverty causes.

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

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

To further its goals, the two-day conference in New York leaned on the star power of longtime ambassador Hugh Jackman, Oscar-winning actress Michelle Yeoh and Brazilian singer Anitta. Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, even made a previously unpublicized appearance Wednesday to discuss the need for men to actively fight sexism and champion reproductive rights.

“The Walking Dead” and “Black Panther” star Danai Gurira said more Western aid alone is not enough. African nations need true self-determinism because “we are so far from uprooting ourselves from colonialism," according to the Iowa-born actress who was raised in Zimbabwe.

“We are ridiculously wealthy, from the cobalt to the lithium to the diamonds to the rubber to the oil," she said. "But often you don’t see us in control of it.”

About 60% of Africa's population is younger than 25 years old — a tremendous asset that two-time Super Bowl champion Osi Umenyiora said only needs more opportunity. The former defensive end discussed his work spearheading the National Football League's efforts there to provide the training necessary for international athletes to get college scouts' attention and eventually play professionally.

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

“The best athletes in the world, in my estimation, are in Africa," Umenyiora told the AP. "It’s just they haven’t been developed. They haven’t been trained.”

The conference followed the announcement that Global Citizen will co-present an economic summit in Ivory Coast this fall. The goal is to boost foreign aid to Sub-Saharan Africa, where the working-age population is expected to double by 2050 but many lack access to electricity.

Speakers emphasized that global leaders must help bridge those gaps now if they want to tap the region's full potential. Foreign aid can work, they said, despite recent moves from once-generous, debt-saddled governments to decrease the amounts allocated toward developing countries.

Former Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven pitched development assistance as a mutually beneficial investment, not a one-sided act of charity.

“Why not use the whole potential of the world?” asked Lofven, who set a target to spend 1% of Sweden's gross national income on aid while in office.

The conference also marked Global Citizen's efforts to draw Gen Z into its 12 million-member network. The organization recently paired more than 300 young leaders with officials including World Bank President Ajay Banga at the first international edition of Global Citizen NOW.

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

Other speakers shared strategies for engaging authentically with young people online. Anitta told the AP that she hosts classes on Instagram Live so that her fans can learn with her about environmental issues like rainforest protection.

Actor Jordan Fisher acknowledged that seemingly insurmountable student loans or the unaffordable housing market might make young people feel politically lost. He emphasized that voting is just one way to begin getting involved.

Fisher is also identifying new platforms to empower members of Global Citizen. An avid gamer, he is advising the organization as it develops a gaming division. He said livestreaming services like Twitch can be a great tool for raising money and awareness among audiences tuning in to watch their favorite creators.

“It's some of the most authentic work that can be done. It's just people. And it's just us. It's human beings," Fisher told the AP.

“The power of gaming is massive."


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