“Le roi est mort, vive le roi!” As the birthplace of humanity, the African continent has seen many a King and Queen pass over the millennia, yet one truth has remained impervious to change: the power of the youth. We as the youth of Africa need to disavow the moniker of “leaders of tomorrow,” and instead embrace being the “change agents of today.” The youth are a paragon of vitality, and through having young people at the forefront of amassing every opportunity from augured economic growth, Africa can be the quintessence of longevity.
I believe in the promise of Africa’s tomorrow which I am committed to being a part of building today. I refuse to be a child of Africa who writes off my continent having not done anything to be a proponent of progress. I foresee an Africa who today’s economic difficulty will be the nadir; the dichotomy between sustainability and sustenance will be a thing of the past when Africa utilises her most precious asset, her people.
When the African continent was invaded by Europeans, they found a land whose caves had been filled with stories. Those halcyon days before Africa being colonised may have passed, but the storytelling has remained with us. Disseminating information is an art form that Africans perfected eons ago. I believe my most powerful tool is my words, which is why I have been writing about the experiences of African women since I was 18. We need to dismantle patriarchy to create an equitable Africa for all her people, something we cannot do if we pretend it doesn’t exist.
As a young person in 2016, I am a member of a generation that can mobilise itself and share information at a remarkable pace. A generation that whose imagination is not fettered by man-made boundaries on a map. A generation who longs to see Africans fixing African problems the African way – through communication and sharing of ideas.
As young people, we are at an advantageous position where we can question and query, as the channels for communication between us and appointed leaders become easier to navigate. The things we take for granted like the right to vote were fought for by these leaders, and I hope that when the next generation of youth hear that there was a time in my country where women couldn’t open bank accounts without spousal approval, it leaves them disbelieving because by then we would have built a utopia for everyone in Africa.
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Young people have been pivotal in the independence of their countries. Although independence has been achieved, Pan-Africanism lives on in the mission against neo-imperialism. Africa needs to be emancipated from the residual effects of colonialism, and her resources need to remain with hers. The onus is on us to make sure that the image of Africa that goes out into the world dispels the template of ubiquitous poverty. It would be disingenuous to pretend that poverty is not a reality in Africa. Nonetheless with young people who are less risk averse than their elders, we can channel that ingenuity towards ideas geared to sustainable development. This Africa Youth Day, I intend to launch a blitzkrieg across all social networks sharing the reality of an Africa with an expanding urban community and bright future. In 50 years when I am asked what we won by changing the world’s view of Africa, I hope to respond that our victory began when we lost the mental shackles that made us view our home as a dark dystopia.
In a world where the apology is the punctuation to the woman’s sentence, it’s so endearing to watch young women realise their potential and their abilities. Intersectionality is not just about destroying white supremacy, but about destroying black patriarchy. Women have been expected to be supportive of emancipation movements, but remain in the background. Nevertheless, this has never deterred us, and now more and more women are embracing their magic and embodying the revolution. Harnessing the potential of economic growth to create a more solvent tomorrow for our continent requires all our people to have a voice, irrespective of gender. I am an advocate for the social, political and economic equality of the sexes. Africa cannot progress if a key demographic remains disenfranchised. Culture is not oppressive by nature, but it has become a mechanism for misogyny. Dismantling patriarchy is of pivotal importance in creating a peaceful Africa; peace is inextricably linked to the empowerment of women. Equality is not equality if it is not equality for all. I believe this is an age for the uncomfortable conversation. As the youth, we need to confront the many demographic privileges we have, be they gender based, classist or even geographical. In the choice between what is right and what is easy, remembering that we are building an Africa for tomorrow. Quiet should not be confused for peace; despotic rule is not Africa’s portion.
Africa is alive with possibility, if adequate investment is made in the leaders of tomorrow today.