Active youth participation needed to attain Universal Health Coverage in Africa by 2030

By: Evalin Karijo and Gloria Nyanja

“Nothing about us, without us”. That was the clear message that young people from 11 different countries in Africa delivered to the delegates gathered at the 2017 Africa Health Agenda International Conference (AHAIC) in Nairobi, Kenya.

The message from young people in 2017 was so powerful that we are carrying it forward as the theme for the 2019 Youth Pre-conference of the Africa Health Agenda International Conference (AHAIC) in Kigali, Rwanda between 3 and 4 March. “Nothing about us, without us”.

For the AHAIC 2019 Youth Pre-conference, we will  focus on the broad theme of Universal Health Coverage in Africa in keeping with the topic of the AHAIC 2019 main conference: “2030 Now: Multi-sectoral Action to Achieve Universal Health Coverage in Africa.”

The youth organising committee has designed the pre-conference to enhance young people’s participation in the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) agenda discussions in their country, regionally and globally. Africa has a young population with 65% of the people being under the age of 35 years. Any efforts in UHC in Africa, therefore, must ensure that the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of youth are met and are affordable.  Accountability to the youth in Africa on UHC will be defined by the availability, acceptability and affordability of the preventive and curative services they can access.

The ultimate outcome of the Youth Pre-conference is to build momentum and membership of a UHC 2030 youth movement to ensure that young people throughout Africa are fully engaged in and are actively contributing towards reaching UHC in their individual countries by 2030. Members of the UHC 2030 youth movement will support high level discussions and country specific consultations towards official UHC reports and watchdog reports.  The AHAIC 2019 Youth Pre-conference is designed to create outputs that will support the youth movement, including UHC advocacy toolkits by various partners, youth policy statements and a survey report on the status of youth engagement with UHC in Africa.

The success of a UHC youth  movement will be measured through the improved knowledge on UHC and improved skills of youth to carry out advocacy on UHC around sexual and reproductive health and rights and HIV. To achieve this through the AHAIC 2019 Youth Pre-conference, Amref Health Africa and partners will create:

  • A survey targeting youth networks and individuals to interrogate:
    1. Youth knowledge of Universal Health Coverage
    2. Youth understanding of how they can engage with the UHC agenda
    3. Youth definition of advocacy spaces in existence and successes and challenges of engaging with their governments and other stakeholders
  • Skills building workshops on Universal Health Coverage, sexual and reproductive health and rights, HIV and advocacy where partners will share tools and strategies for youth
  • Direct engagement with thought leaders during town hall sessions

We are calling on young people to join us in building the youth movement for UHC in Africa. Join with hundreds of youth at the AHAIC 2019 Youth Pre-conference March 3 to 4 in Kigali, Rwanda. Early bird registration is open now and can be done easily online at

Civil society organisations, non-governmental organisations, private sector companies, governments and others who are involved in discussions for UHC in Africa must actively involve young people from the very beginning. The Youth Pre-conference is an opportunity for organisations to reach young people to strengthen youth advocacy on UHC and in other technical health areas such as health systems strengthening, primary health care, non-communicable and communicable diseases among many other areas. Working with the AHAIC 2019 Youth Pre-conference committee, organisations can create workshops tailored to engage with and build the skills of youth participants around health-focused topics specific to their work. Details are available in the 2019 AHAIC Youth Pre-conference backgrounder.

“Nothing about us, without us” is  a call to action for young people to join the movement to attain UHC in Africa by 2030, and for all sectors involved to ensure the experiences and expertise of young people are included at all steps along the road to UHC.

Evalin Karijo and Gloria Nyanja are members of the 2019 AHAIC Youth Pre-conference organising committee.

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