Africa ‘out-pope the pope’ in youth inclusion in governance
The attitude is said to deny the natural-resource rich continent of growth it deserves
TUESDAY December 13, 2022
By Patty Magubira
The Tranquility News Reporter, Tanzania
Former Gambia vice president Fatoumatta Tambajang has blamed Africa’s backwardness on aid syndrome and exclusion of youth in governance.
She urged African youthful leaders to consider changing the rampant mindset towards development among the continent’s leaders.
African leaders ought to bring the youth on board to not only hear their voice, aspirations and perspective in the political and socio-economic discourse, but also to consider and empower them, she said.
“The advancement of Africa will never depend on outsiders, but on us Africans, we need to have generational dialogue like the one I am having with you today so that you do not despair,” Ms Tambajang said.
She was addressing over 500 youth from 45 African countries gathered in Arusha, Tanzania, for the 6thedition of YouLead Summit which the former Gambia vice president said was a building bloc towards the future of young Africans.
YouLead Summit is an annual climax forum that brings together continental, regional and national policy makers together with youth leaders, private sector and representatives from civil society organisations to seek solutions for pressing concerns of the youth, including their rapidly growing population.
Africa abounds with natural resources and youthful human capital, yet the continent was languishing in poverty, wondered Ms Tambajang, citing Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Nigeria and other countries endowed with minerals, natural gas and oil.
“We are a rich continent, all what we need is to utilise the resources we have and apply good governance,” Ms Tambajang said.
She exhorted the youth to task their leaders to use resources wisely including investing in human capital as Singapore and Dubai successfully did just about two decades ago.
“Africa will never move if young people like you do not lead,” said Ms Tambajang, admitting: “Inspire yourselves to become good leaders different from us who have disappointed you.
“Seventy-five per cent of Africa’s population is constituted by the young people from the age of 35 onwards, we cannot afford to leave the human capital,” she said.
Ms Tambajang was optimistic the youth could contribute to change that would bring about peace and prosperity on the continent. “We have a spillover of insecurity; we have people who do not have access to water,” she said, as she admonished the youth:
“Lead with a difference by becoming honest, having the sense of integrity and direction, and loving your countries. You can become whatever you want to be in life,” she said.
Ms Tambajang said this year’s theme of the summit: Digital Access and Future of Work, was a guiding principle to aspirations and direction of young people and that it would prevent them from becoming dependent and a liability to the continent.
When one leads, he expects to have knowledge, skills and determination to become productive, change agent and successful in life, she explained.
Ms Tambajang reminded the young leaders, nevertheless, that the majority of the African youth, whose parents were struggling to survive on daily basis, lived in rural areas where access to health and education was limited.
“We cannot talk of digitalisation when people are poor,” stressed the former Gambian civil servant for 22 years, stressing that boys and girls should have equal access to education, healthcare and training, particularly in digitalisation.
If Africa wants to move forward, it had to pursue a bottom-top approach by focusing on poverty alleviation, social inclusion, gender inequality and peace and security.
She cautioned the youth that life was not a bed of roses, revealing that she was herself a victim of gender inequality, as she was married off at the age of 16 years only to become the mother of four from two different fathers before she went back to school.
Commending the MS Training Centre for Development Cooperation (TCDC), a Pan-African centre based in Arusha, Tanzania, for providing African youth with knowledge for them to become agents of change, the former Gambia vice president said the need for Africa to engage and mentor its young people could not be overemphasized.
The East African Community (EAC) Secretary General, Dr Peter Mathuki, said the 6thDevelopment Strategy of the bloc recognised youth as an important driver of the growth of the community in both productive and social sectors.
The EAC incorporated a team of youth in its election observer mission led by the YouLead Patron, the former Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete, during the Kenya General Election in August 2022. The team also comprised the EAC youth ambassadors.
The EAC carried out an advocacy training for youth on the promotion of culture of peace dialogue and tolerance held early this month in Entebbe, Uganda.
The bloc has further initiated the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Youth Inclusion Accelerator Project to amplify continental mobilisation, awareness, engagement and participation of African youth between ages of 18 and 35 years in the implementation of the agreement.
“Through a strategic support from EABC (East African Business Council), the project has led to exponential increase of African youth’s participation in cross-border trade,” observed Dr Mathuki in a speech read on his behalf by Dr Irene Kisaka, the EAC Director of Social Services.
The International Trade Centre and GIZ are jointly implementing the initiative which is also enjoying technical support from the AfCFTA Secretariat and national business apex bodies.
“The efforts notwithstanding, African youth still face significant rate of unemployment, limited socio-economic and governance opportunities and major psychosocial pressure,” Dr Mathuki observed.
The MS TCDC Executive Director, Ms Makena Mwobobia, said digital transformation opened up possibilities for young Africans, citing the Kenyan youth who invented mobile money service popularly known as MPESA.
“When we improve their digital access and bridge the digital gap, I believe, we will be a step closer to an inclusive and sustainable Africa,” she said.
She implored leaders on the continent to use their spheres of power and influence to address COVID-19 pandemic-related employment and income losses that had ravaged youth-owned businesses.
Although the continent’s regional economic communities were improving trade, it was still complicated for the youth to fully reap benefits of the frameworks and policies in place.
“It is high time we looked into bringing down those walls and promoting the unity and free movement of our people in a borderless Africa to improve and consolidate our economic, social and political power,” she stressed.
The US envoy to Tanzania, Mr Donald Wright, said much as the youth provided the future elsewhere, it was important to make their voices heard and considered in the decision-making machineries.
The vast US support to Tanzania went to health, education and economic programmes for the advancement of young people aged 35 years who represented 75 per cent of the country’s population.
He said the quarter of the world’s population would live in Africa by 2050 and that almost all of them would be young people. “The greatest challenge is ensuring they are empowered, healthy and productive. How do we do it, this is the reason we are here today,” he saidΩ