We planned a project called ‘Africa we Want’ which was about training youth to make change in their communities. We did this through our Subject to Citizen (S2C) change model which is about youth transforming youth to have both rights and responsibilities – and hope. Hope in the future and the now. Hope that youth will be taken seriously to steer us all into the future. The youth have done such amazing things… last reporting showed that more than 20 000 youth had been fully trained in civic competence and about 30 000 were centrally involved in community action in the 11 countries we did the Africa we Want project. Stop. Consider… that is 30 000 active and transformed citizens and the thing about transformation – it’s real as you do not go back.
The YMCAs in Africa also planned to liaise with governments on how they were making this fabulous Agenda 2063 a reality, our interest being in the youth aspect. And we had this (now seemingly crazy) idea about how we would track resource allocation to youth based on Agenda 2063 adoption and implementation in the countries of our continent.
Well, wake up call! Who knows about Agenda 2063? That is the question we are still asking ourselves. While government departments played ‘pass the parcel’, most people were saying ‘Agenda…whaaat?’ Our inspiration came from the youth: those who heard about Agenda 2063, clearly saw the future of the Africa we want as a peaceful, prosperous and serious global contender. With our African identity as one of pride. And dignity.
I am smiling as I write as I have been privileged to be part of many processes where this Africa we want has been so well articulated and taken on by the youth as their rally cry. They believe ‘Africa is in me’ and are inspired to sacrifice for a better future for us all. They sacrifice their time and their money to train and transform other youth to get into this driver’s seat for the African Renaissance.
Our mandate is youth empowerment. So, where we see hope and achievement, we continue. Over the past year, we have researched youth facts and trends and forecasts. Very sobering. Here are some of our findings:
• Lack of strong identity as ‘youth’ and what this means and entails
• Gender imbalances due to gender-based violence, and practices which disadvantage young women
• Fear of failure, linked to career and earning capacity concerns
• Concern over lack of growth or expansion of meaningful employment
• Technology as favoured in future career development
• Lack of confidence in current structure of country politics
• Apathy in terms of citizenship roles such as candidateship, participating in political campaigns and dialogues – although the vast majority said they use social media to engage in debates and discussions on issues concerning youth
• Mobile phone usage the preferred mode of communication for youth, but the divide between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ is widening
This is just a sample of the information we have collected through desktop research, online and field research across the continent and now we are mirroring these findings back to the youth in 17 African countries, asking: what do you think and what do you feel about what the present says the future could be?
In this process we are developing an African Youth Fact Book – first of its kind for the YMCA! So as we validate, these are some of the responses we are getting:
“This kind of data is amazing as we did not know it exists… people actually care about our future…rural youth do not have that much internet access so were confused that the internet influences sexuality as for them it is friends mostly… such an eye-opener… and a bit scary what the future may predict” – Herinaina Ranriamalala, reporting from Madagascar.
“The youth were totally awestruck and then wanted to know what we as the YMCA could do to help … the future seemed very difficult to comprehend, based on the forecasts” – Neema Kipokola, reporting from Tanzania.
“Most youth felt valued and empowered to be part of a process that has the potential to shape the future of Africa… they said government and other organisations really need to start working with intention and practically towards our future… many looked inward and said they need to be part of the solution seeking and not the problem making” – Daniel Phiri, reporting from Zambia.
So what is next then? These findings will be released in the Africa Youth Fact Book on Africa Youth Day, 1 November this year. Save the date! African Youth Day – 1 November.
Then comes the really exciting part…we shall be involving youth to imagine scenarios for our future. And seriously consider what needs to be done to journey to the most healthy, equitable and just future.
The African YMCA movement is making history in Africa – with the Fact Book and with the Scenarios. Africa is our motherland and we believe in Africa, as active citizens all willing to go the extra mile to create an Africa that both we and others take seriously socially, politically and economically. In Africa we trust!
By Gil Harper, AAYMCA, Programmes