We came from different backgrounds, from different parts of Africa, but all with one goal – to change the continent, to improve our society, and for our voices to be heard! We are the restless youth.
I was delighted to be chosen as a youth communicator at the above event by Restless Development, a youth based agency in the United Kingdom. It was an eye-opening experience in which I met 15 dynamic youth delegates and 3 youth communicators, all with our own stories on how we strived to be heard in our respective society, all passionate about Youth development, all working in our own little space to create the change needed.
Prior to the Forum a training session was held on why we were here, the problems we faced in our countries and what we hoped to achieve at the Forum. The theme of the event: African Youth- fulfilling the potential, focussed on the three main challenges to the economic and social development of Africa’s youth – Education, Employment and Civil participation. After deliberation we came up with a summary of what we wanted in the near future for African Youth – Youth empowerment, entrepreneurship development, quality and quantitative education and Youth participation in governance. We were of one voice, that youth be part and parcel of the decision-making policies meant for youths.
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation award/Forum was attended by over four hundred high profile guests from civil society, government, business enterprises and multi-lateral institutions from across Africa. It was also an avenue to bestow honour on Archbishop Desmond Tutu for “speaking truth to power”. Lots of programmes were lined up to discuss how African Youth can fulfill their potential.
The first programme, an Intergenerational Dialogue connecting the TUTU fellows, elders and youth, was on how Youth can be involved in governance in Africa, ensuring Gender equality in youth leadership, on how education systems contribute to developing youth leadership, and on how elders can support transitions and cultural shifts in society and the role of the state, civil society and media. The Elders believe that African Youth have potential but they have to develop themselves as “Self confidence comes with the opportunity of expressing yourself”. The Tutu Fellows asked what development can African Youth offer? James Mwangi said that the challenge is on youth to determine what they want, find the space and strive for excellence. Ibrahim Niang of The Youth was of the opinion that we need to visit our school programmes in Africa. The key problem is that we don’t know the model of personality we want to build. Isaac Mwapipo said that the young should be perceived as core players in governance and that power and decision-making resides in the youth. We all agreed that the ‘Elders, youth, and the media are important tools in developing Africa and we must look for ways to harness them together.’
The next programme was panel discussions on the event theme, divided into three sessions to cover the three core elements. The former President of Nigeria, President Olusegun Obasanjo, introduced the first Panel session saying that African Youth should not be seen as liabilities but assets to the continent. He said that in his own generation they had opportunities but no facilities but in this generation, we have facilities but no opportunities thus, African Youth should look for ways to create these opportunities by making good use of the facilities that they have.
The second panel session on Ensuring African Youth competitiveness developing the right skills and providing adequate tools was headed by Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. He said ‘there are many economic opportunities in Africa but they are hindered by corruption.’ The consensus among the panellists was that African Governments should unite and create employment by developing their own continent instead of exporting and importing to western countries. Also that, when the government listen to the youth, they can be mobilized for peace, stability & economic growth of the continent.
The Final panel session, ‘Acquiring Social and Political Responsibility’, headed by former President of Botswana Festus Mogae, we agreed that Youth should hold government more accountable…..even more so, that youth should take part in active governance and development and take the revolution to the street.
African Leaders are aware of the problems facing African Youth – according to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, ‘young people should never stop dreaming because they are the Hope of Africa.’ In addition, Mo Ibrahim said that Africa has gone through a lot of challenges but we are still standing strong and the youth have to stand up for themselves and not wait for the government. We should identify the potential Labour market as a youth BY creating one. The Prime Minister of Senegal, Abdoul Mbaye, said that the future of the continent is tantamount to the future of the youth.
At the end of the forum my horizon has being broadened and I see myself as a person who must not be limited by background and society. I see that African youth are great and we can create a world we want if we define our goals and work in unity to achieve them. We need innovative, risk taking young leaders who can start the change in their own little space.
So what are you doing to change your society? Are you a liability or an asset to our Continent?
Youths were represented from Morocco (Iman Benjelloun), Tunisia (Fedi Bahri), Egypt (Hend Sallam), South Sudan(James Ochan), Ghana (Lily Mensah), the Gambia(Kaddijatuo Manneh), Tanzania (Adam Abraham), Uganda (Joel Bamwise), Ethiopia (Yeabisra Bogale),DRC (Prince Wilondja), Cameroun (Zoneziwoh Mbonduglo), South Africa (Aviwe Motsoane), Zambia (Christabel Machila and Isaac Mwaipopo), Zimbabwe (Mthulisi Moyo), Kenya(Alfred Mdumo), Also, part of the youth delegate were two disable people, Fedi and James from Africa Youth With Disabilities Network(AYWDN).