President John Mahama on Wednesday declared the government’s determination to deal with the challenge of youth unemployment in the country.

One of the programmes being rolled out by the government to tackle unemployment, he said, was the creation of the Youth Jobs and Enterprise Development Fund to provide young people with entrepreneurial skills and access to funds to establish businesses or expand existing ones.

Addressing the 68th United Nations (UN)General Assembly in New York, President Mahama said either establishing or expanding existing businesses, more new employment opportunities would be created by the youth and for the youth.

President Mahama said over the course of the last decade, African economies created over 37 million wage-paying jobs, yet 63 per cent of workers remained trapped in low-paying subsistence or self-employment endeavours.

“With these realities come the very real possibilities of income instability, exclusion from the benefits of economic growth and social security benefits tied to formal sector employment.

“Africa has a fast growing population, more than 50 per cent of which is below the age of 35. That means we must create more jobs for our growing numbers of youth,” he said.

President Mahama said Ghana achieved the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target for reducing poverty and hunger far ahead of the scheduled date of 2015.

“We are on track to achieving MDGs 2, 3, and 6 as well. School enrolment, gender parity and reduction of HIV/AIDS have all seen dramatic progress and statistical shifts as a result of the work that has been done to reach our targets.

“While we are lagging in MDGs 4, 5, and 7 — infant and maternal mortality as well as water and sanitation — the figures show that there has been a vast improvement,” he said.

At the first National Youth Achievers Awards in Accra in 2012, the government declared its intention to launch a GHc10 million Jobs & Enterprises Fund to support access to business financing by young people who were desirous of engaging in entrepreneurship.

President Mahama’s 15-minute address at the UN touched on social, political and economic developments in Ghana, Africa and the world.

Trumpeting Ghana’s democratic credentials, the President said Ghana’s democracy was tested, and reported with pride that “we passed with flying colours”.

“The results of our recent elections were contested. Since our return to constitutional rule, Ghana has conducted six successive elections. These were the first results to be formally challenged and heard by the Supreme Court. What made this situation noteworthy was the reliance, by all parties involved, on the rule of law.

“The proceedings were televised for the sake of transparency. The verdicts were readily accepted, and there was not a single reported incident of violence,” he said

He painted a good picture of Ghana’s democratic growth with reference to the peaceful conduct of the 2012 elections and the election petition and said Ghana’s victory was not an aberration as other countries, such as Kenya, had shared similar experiences.

“It indicates that the balance of power in African countries is shifting from the authority of a sole individual to the more equitable process of a properly designed system. Strong institutions are the hallmark of a nation’s stability. They are crucial tools in the fight for human rights,” he said.

On terrorism, President Mahama said before he left Ghana to attend the UN General Assembly, he learned of the terrorist attack that took place in Nairobi, Kenya.

“I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear of the many lives that were lost to those senseless and cowardly acts of violence.

“As the death toll increased, so too did my grief, knowing that each additional number symbolised one more human life. Those numbers symbolised individuals who may have been strangers to you or to me but were of prime significance in the lives of the people who loved them: parents, children, husbands, wives, friends, colleagues. Soon enough, I got word that one of the people massacred was a person who held significance in my life and in the lives of so many other Ghanaians,” he said.

President Mahama said Prof. Awoonor had served Ghana loyally as a distinguished poet and professor, a former ambassador to Brazil and Cuba, and past Chairman of the Council of State, a presidential advisory board.

“Professor Awoonor had once even been our country’s envoy to the United Nations. On this fateful day, however, Professor Awoonor was in Nairobi to perform his poetry at a writers’ conference,” he said.

He told the international community that Africa would not be deterred in its democratic march and democratic growth by the threats of rebels and terrorists.

He said the recent terrorist attack in Kenya, which led to the death of more than 62 people, including Professor Kofi Awoonor, would not create any divisions among Africans but would bring them together to fight the terrorists.

“Even on the heels of this terrorist attack, I know that today’s Africa will not be divided or deterred by the heinous crimes of those who wish to disrupt our progress.

“I know that our borders will no longer be used to undermine the brotherhood and sisterhood of our citizens,” he said.

The President said the days of massacres must remain in the past in Africa. “Our rivers will no longer flow red. Our children must be students now; we will no longer allow their childhoods to be stolen by those who wish to turn them into soldiers,” he said.

President Mahama said Africa was standing tall, walking confidently toward political stability, walking confidently toward economic prosperity, and walking proudly toward ethnic and religious harmony and co-existence.

“There is no place in today’s Africa for hatred and intolerance and the murder of innocent people. Not anymore. Not ever again. So we will mourn our dead. We will console ourselves, and each other, through the grief. But we cannot allow terror to defeat us. This must strengthen our resolve. Our stride will not be broken.

“There was a time when killing seemed almost commonplace in Africa. Indeed, there are plenty of graves that remain unmarked. There was a time when the ruthlessness of dictators seemed to be the order of the day.

“For decades the corruption, greed and depravity of a few caused the suffering of an entire continent. We so easily could have succumbed to the wars, the poverty, the diseases; but we did not. We staggered our way through, year after year, but eventually we made it. We survived,” he said.

Touching on Ghana’s role in sub-regional politics, President Mahama said Ghana had been steadfast in its cooperation with regional neighbours to maintain the security of those nations that were enjoying stability and to restore security to countries such as Cote d’Ivoire and Mali that had recently emerged from turmoil.

The President said currently, Cote d’Ivoire was in a stage of rebuilding, adding that the recent overtures toward reconciliation made by President Ouattara were a major step towards bridging the country’s political divide.

He added that after Mali’s own bout with terror, it made a solid return to democracy by conducting an election that all observers, even the sceptics and the cynics, hailed as being free, fair and peaceful.

The President said Ghana was encouraged by the new initiative to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue.”We are still firm in our belief that an independent Palestinian state existing side by side with a peaceful and secure Israeli state is a desirable outcome we must all support and work towards.

“In working towards this, we must realise that the continuous construction of settlements in Palestinian territory increasingly shuts the door on a two-state solution,” he said.

President Mahama again called for the embargo against Cuba to be lifted, saying, “It is a relic of the Cold War era and has no place in our current global dispensation.”