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Power on Paper!

By Edward Sakwa, Public Relations Officer / MEAT Project Lead – Stretchers Youth Organisation

We, the African youth, have been given so much power on paper, but it’s just powers without action.

Voice’s grantee partners engaging at the knowledge exchange in Zanzibar, Tanzania

The African Youth Charter recognises the youth as partners, assets, and a prerequisite for sustainable development for the peace and prosperity of Africa that has a unique contribution to make to the present and future development. The Agenda 2063 is Africa’s development blueprint and master plan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future and understands the importance of promoting the rights of the youth and meeting the needs of all their diversity.

Africa has the youngest population in the world, with close to 70% being under 35 years old. The demographic dividends have not been put to good use. Instead, the youth are seen as a problem to be solved due to their radical hunger for change in the African electoral system. With such a large population of youth, inclusion in the development agenda is now more critical than ever because this provides an opportunity for African youth to address Africa’s challenges collectively. But why is this not the case?

The notion that the youth are leaders of tomorrow, of which ” Tomorrow” never comes, has been a song sung in different genres that the youth are now tired of. If the youth don’t push themselves to spaces and avenues to exercise their leadership capacity, how will they be the leaders they expected to be? Where will they gain the experience the elderly (Golden) generation has gained throughout time? For the golden (elderly) generation to be where they are today, someone gave them platforms to lead, but instead of mentoring the youth, they see them as competition and an obstacle to their leadership style. It’s that time the African youth challenge these spaces and stand strong to be recognized as partners but not the problem that needs to be solved.

A group photo of voice linking and learning partners during the knowledge exchange in Zanzibar, Tanzania

This time around, and with the rise of the youth across the continent, I tend to believe the African youth are more united than ever, and we will bring along our seats to the decision-making table. For once, we are all tired of being given passive seats as a checklist for youth inclusion in decision-making spaces where our voice is just heard, but no action is taken.

Today, the African youth are taking the front seats in creating value and shaping their future by defining the Africa they want. Taking a closer look at what happened in NIGERIA in 2020 during the #EndSARS movement, the youth defined the movement by actively participating in the protest without fear by being vocal on social media platforms about the injustices faced across the country. The #EndSARS movement clearly outlined the youth’s role in bringing about social change when given the necessary tools.

Kenya held its general election in August 2022, and the elections allowed the youth to participate in the electoral process as candidates in different elective seats. Unfortunately, Kenya’s politics is largely defined by political parties and seen as vehicles to steer one into elective seats. The truth is, for one to have power in these political parties, then one has to have the financial muscles which the youth don’t have, which leads to failure to clinch the seats. Most of these political parties have good structures and strategies on paper, but the actualisation of the same is a steep mountain to climb. It’s high time that when a youth is mentioned, we need to have youth, not individuals who keep telling us they are youth at heart. When we don’t address these, where will we take all the youth who will eventually cease to be youth soon? Your guess is as good as mine.

When we take a look at our neighbours Uganda, the youth there are changing the political landscape. Uganda has the youngest parliamentarians, which was a result of the youth defying all odds to seek these elective positions.

All these are a result of the growing recognition of digital spaces as an avenue that has taken away the imaginary boundaries that have limited Africa’s youth from exploring their resource extensively. The role of social media in mobilising the youth can never be ignored.

Voice linking and learning partners taking selfies during the knowledge exchange in Zanzibar, Tanzania

The potential of the African youth can be harnessed if the continent can move from power on paper; to Power to ACT! ON. Let’s give the African Youth the power and space to actualize their dreams, which will contribute to the realisation of Africa we want. For us to successfully implement the transformation Agenda of Africa, engaging the youth is central to its success.

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