Challenge for Africa's youthBy Tokunbo Ojo
As I walked out of Sir George Williams campus, Concordia University after the African Youth Summit few weeks ago, I asked myself "how can I as an African youth transform what is called "the Dark Continent" into "the Continent of Light?" How can I contribute to the economic development in a continent where the institutions of civil society are amputated and stultified as a result of conflict?
The current wars in Africa have abused the continent's youths. Many young Africans today have not known peace from the day their umbilical cords were buried. There has been fighting in Angola for thirty-five years, in Sudan for over twenty-eight years, in Sierra Leone for ten years, in Democratic Republic of Congo (former Zaire) for over four years. Add to that many unreported armed conflicts within the continent.
Signs of hope are few and far between. The Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) introduced by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have, so far, made things worse in fairly stabled African countries. Forced to reduce public spending and privatize public services, government support for essential social programs such as education has shrunk forcing many African children out of school. In fact, except South Africa, none of the fifty-three African countries is currently in control of its economy. They live on the advice of the IMF and the World Bank and the peanut that they get as "foreign aids" from the powerful and rich nations of the world.
In spite of all these gloomy situations that have left my generation in the pit of poverty, unemployment, disease and ignorance, I am very optimistic that the future belongs us youths. We constitute the bulk of the population. From available statistics, persons between the ages of fifteen and forty-five account for about forty per cent of the continent's population. Consequently, we are not merely an object of a passing concern or academic study, but a factor to be reckoned with. We just need to stand up and free the continent from the claws of our current "messy" leaders.
The continent's poor economic and political performance is neither representative of her potential nor in consonance with the aspirations of its citizens. It is the by-product of the corruption and mismanagement by our current leaders. Africa is endowed with vast human and natural resources, including oil and diamond, which can put her in front row if we rise up to the task.
Bringing Africa back to life remains a great challenge for us in the 21st century because our current elders have failed us by not providing necessary infrastructures for the development of our potential. Nonetheless, it is high time we rise and free Africa from the socio-economic and political shackles that have tied the continent to a sinking anchor.
In all history, it is the youth that have always taken the banner of freedom and been in the vanguard of championing the cause of the oppressed. In the old Africa, young Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nelson Mandela, Kwame Nkrumah and others championed the noble causes for the development and advancement of the African continent. They fought boldly to free the continent from the shackles of colonialism and oppression.
Our participation in continental development programs is indisputable as we are invaluable assets that will contribute immensely to productivity of our wonderful continent. If we African youth fail to rise to the challenge today, the future of Africa looks bleak and gloomy. The Mobutus, Sankohs, Kabilas and trans-national corporations of this world will continue to siphon our resources. At our expense, they will continue to enrich the West and increasingly the East too, with the stolen resources from the motherland. Though as it is noted in World Council of Churches (WCC) staff paper on the "Africa Plenary" for the 8th Assembly of the WCC, Harare 1998, " it is not the material poverty that constitutes the biggest problem of Africa in the bid for social transformation. It is the lack of a vital inner force, a moral will and a capacity for sustained initiatives in the struggle for positive change. "
Africa needs us to cross over the bridge ahead of her. Americans, Europeans and Asians are not under any obligation to build our continent for us. It is we Africans that must build our land, and the onus lies on us young Africans. For the glory of all civilisations, rise and fall, has to a very large extent, been dependent on the contributions of the youth. We must rise and become beacons of hope.
About the author
Tokunbo Ojo is a Montreal based freelance