As one driven by the spirit of Ubuntu and Pan Africanism, I am disturbed that despite this being the year 2017 with Africa having 54 independent States we still continue to look to the West to provide ‘solutions’ for our own basic problems.
Just a couple of weeks ago, 26 young Nigerian girls, some as young as 14 died. Their lives lost at sea with reports of abuse leading to murder. Yet the reaction we have from Africa leaders, is still the same, silence – deafening silence. This silence makes me wonder if it has anything to do with how as Africans we perceive our dignity. Do we really value life; what is the value of an African life? Does the ordinary African’s life count? Reports of increasing mortalities as young Africans seek to leave their countries, travelling in precarious conditions to work elsewhere, even at the risk of slavery and death continue to bombard us. These reports and eventualities highlight that very little is being done by our governments to rescue and show concern for their citizens. We continue to be mesmerised by how developed countries are alert and quick to intervene decisively when one of their citizens are at risk and in danger. One western life lost; like the case of a US diplomat killed in Libya (Under Obama’s Presidency) became a state affair in the US. Again; I need to emphasise here that all life is sacred, the loss of any life, white or black, young or old, citizen or diplomat needs to elicit the same concern and care from all concerned. We do not see that commitment to life among our African leaders for the many young lives we are losing.
In looking to the West for basic solutions, Africans overlook the underlining priority of Western countries. Theirs is not so much about protecting African young people as in protecting their borders, their wealth and dare I add, to amass even more wealth, even when the wealth is being sourced from an exploited African nation eg diamonds in Sierra Leone. The strategy behind the carefully planned killing of Gadhafi was more about gaining access to oil and geo-political influence than about human rights protection. When the Western powers that be came for Gadhafi and instigated measures to kill him, African leaders were silent. Now while the country lies in ruins and becoming a passage for migrants to Europe, the European Union in a self-protecting move, initiated grants for government and civil society organisations to improve the living conditions of the most vulnerable. Nonetheless, even with establishment of these grants, access to them is seriously hampered and regulated by bureaucracy with close to 50% of the funds being used for administrative purposes and controlled by organisations within the EU itself. So how are these funds serving to alleviate the suffering of the people of Libya or Africa when both the agenda and the strings of the purse are held and controlled by the EU in a self-serving manoeuvre?
Perhaps African leaders are now beginning to face up to the truth of the matter and beginning to move to developing solutions beyond silence. The Africa Union has in the recent years developed an Africa driven Agenda “the Africa we Want” encapsulated in the Agenda 2063. The Agenda 2063 seeks to address the root causes of poverty that are contributing to the endless suffering of the African people. Unemployment, illiteracy, mounting socio-economic challenges, political turmoil to name but a few continue to undermine the well-being of the African continent. Achievement of the aspirations of Agenda 2063 requires the diligent and concerted empowerment of the African youth leading to a true rebirth, a Renaissance of the continent. So that at no time should they ever consider subjecting themselves to the level of slavery while being an African citizen.
Rallying efforts towards accountability by government, corporates, business and civic societies is of critical importance to attaining the aspirations of Agenda 2063. It is imperative that the African Union promotes platforms of compliance to the objectives of Agenda 2063 through peer mechanisms to ensure these are upheld. The humanity in us needs to be awakened beyond the silence or at best hasty responses elicited by the harrowing images and exposes by media. We must move towards systemic solutions eg progressively empowering young people to be in the driver’s seat of the Renaissance of the continent.
As we challenge the various stakeholders, we the YMCAs in Africa, the oldest youth empowerment movement in the continent are also introspecting. Asking our constituents and leadership, “what is our role; what indeed should be our role; what can we and should we bring on the table as a solution to this disheartening situation the African continent is faced with?” We are constantly seeking to get better at what we stand for and do; sometimes even grappling with the question of, “How do we provide solutions to problems not well-defined even by the world community?”
At the centre of our introspection is ethical action – seeking to refine our resolve to empowering young people for the African Renaissance. We are creating safe spaces where young people can discover and/or rediscover and redefine what their purpose in life and for the continent is. We believe that when a young person is connected to purpose they are able to decide for themselves. We are convinced that they will no longer identify themselves to the point of acceptance of slavery, but will instead stand up and be counted as citizens. We seek to move young people to contribute and connect to opportunities that reinforce that they are worthwhile daughters and sons of Africa. Moving them to understanding and appreciating that they are and should be part of the solutions this continent yearns, hence ensuring our young people become agents of the change the continent needs.
Achieving this, just like in achieving the aspirations of Agenda 2063 requires resources and accountability from all stakeholders. So, this is a call to the YMCA and other youth organisations to create those spaces for young people to discover themselves, to acquire skills and competencies to become entrepreneurs, to work for equity, to make sure that we have equitable relationships and to hold ourselves and our leaders accountable.
It is also a call to the continental and global community, to contribute to restoring the dignity of the African men, women, and young people. To prevent our people from being treated like stray animals. This message is for us Africans…let us act responsibly, let us not wait for shocking images and documentaries to awaken us. Let us make our lives valuable in our own eyes and not be shown by Western powers that we deserve better!
We call on African leaders together with the African Union to let us talk and more importantly, work together to realise the restoration of African dignity and prosperity.