Today, the United Nations is launching the International Year of Youth to celebrate the energy, imagination and participation of youth in overcoming global challenges. This celebration is about the vibrant ideas of young people around the world and their enthusiasm for putting these ideas into action.

President Obama’s recent Young African Leaders Forum highlighted several innovators - Ariane Inkesha from Rwanda, who is strengthening the role of women in peace-building; Donald Kalokoh from Sierra Leone, who is creating jobs for women and youth; Jalia Nabukalu from Uganda, who is helping women who sell textiles acquire the financial skills to grow their businesses, to name a few. These young leaders are realistic. They are aware of the challenges that their countries face and they continue to push forward with possible solutions

We know that young people have an uninhibited ability to visualize change. Their ideas are often creative, dynamic, and bold.  What would happen if these ideas were actually implemented and scaled-up? Would we see an increase in new jobs, economic growth, and social stability, as well as a more equitable society? It’s hard to predict, but there is an untapped potential in youth that may be a valuable resource for all of us. Their ideas could greatly expand our knowledge about creating jobs, addressing poverty and building strong communities.

All ideas require cultivation and tools to take root. This is why our Foundation collaborates with partners that help young leaders and entrepreneurs realize their potential and transform their ideas into enterprises. The African Leadership Academy models this type of initiative effectively. It provides young people with access to skills, mentors, and networks. It also develops the ingrained entrepreneurial spirit of its students by encouraging them to link their ideas to Africa’s challenges and development priorities. The result? A confident, capable and passionate group of young leaders committed to transforming Africa.

This year’s celebration of youth should be a call to action. Let’s listen.  Let’s partner with young people to turn their ideas into tangible actions. And finally, let’s embed these ideas and youth-led initiatives within our communities.  Why not let youth lay down the foundation for their future?

I would love to hear from young people on this forum. What are your ideas? How are you putting your ideas into action.