THE OLD GUARDS MUST GIVE ROOM FOR THE YOUNG IN AFRICA
The African continent is widely recognized all over the world as a mystifying settlement of people with so much natural abundance yet with huge scale of scarcity and poverty. In 2012 The Economist reported that the African continent contained 60 percent of the world’s arable uncultivated land, also according to research produced by Africa investor (AI) and The Africa Group (TAG) Africa holds $1.671 trillion of potential wealth in 6 key sectors; agriculture, water, fisheries, forestry, tourism and human capital. But with these prospects for wealth, the reality remains that Africa still suffers from un-employment, starvation, poverty, ignorance, and deprivations.
To only reflect on the factors engendering Africa’s predicament is to somewhat become ignorant of the main issue and glaring question, where are the new generation? it is a fact that Africa’s current generation of leaders are the old guards and they are swamped all over the continent from President Paul Biya of Cameroun, Buhari of Nigeria, Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe, Museveni of Uganda and the list goes on. Now don’t get me wrong, am not an “anti-gerontocrat” if there is any word like that. AllI’m against is old guards refusing to give room for new approaches, new methods to reduce poverty and inequality prevalent in the continent. African youths have been disproportionately marginalized in governments and their civic responsibility encumbered with crass dictatorship by the privileged elite in various part of Africa.
My opinion is a stern perspective of african septuagenarians clinging on to power and refusing to step down for younger leadership. For instance, in Uganda there have been persistent narrative of disconnect, the youth are fed-up of a government bereft of ideas Uganda economy has slowly maintained a 3% growth in over a decade but that has resulted to even more un-employment numbers as the vast majority of working class population are unemployed. In the political space Museveni has often regarded Uganda youth has “in-active” for instance in this year international youth day he referred to them as “sleeping”. The paradox in this rhetoric is that Uganda is a country in which 75% of its population are under 25years and pre-Covid19 numbers showed that 60% of informal enterprise were owned by young people (i.e. about 5–6 million informal workers) meaning that, some young people have found a way to survive and independently provide for their basic needs, this is a popular narrative in most parts of Africa, were young people have dominated the informal sector.
However, the truth is that Museveni’s government have for a long time created policies inconsistent with Uganda current youth demographic reality. In fact, there have not been any elaborate economic policies aimed at creating jobs for young people or national platforms established to spur a coherent youth social-entrepreneurship program. Instead like other old guards he has been more concern about dominating Uganda political space he has chose to even marginalize the Youth in other to stay in power or how do you explain his recent electoral policies which stopped voter registration process a year before the election date in-January/February 2021.
Enter Emmerson mnangagwa, Zimbabwe remains a country in perplexity and in free-fall. Even with the swearing in of a new dispensation on November 21st, 2017 Mnangagwa and his cabinet have been unable to offer any glimmer of hope to young Zimbabweans the country ridiculous inflation figures and general economic morbidity has caused record lows in un-employment figures, life expectancy rate et al. Mnangagwa failure to use the opportunity of a post –Mugabe Zimbabwe to capture the teeming population of young people explains why the old guards are often wary of the younger generation according to the United Nation Population fund 62 percent of the total population of Zimbabwe are under 25 years. The bitter truth about Zimbabwe economic crisis is that it disproportionately impacts the younger generations especially when it comes to finding jobs, with youth un-employment at 90 percent according to Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions it is easy to see why young people are frustrated and back to the streets. These crisis breeds an environment that diminishes the self actualization of young people. According to Boateng and Lowe 2008 the aspirations among young people is the context and environment in which they grow up, which is largely influenced by peers, the immediate social circles and existing status quo.
Whether it is Paul Biya Cameroun, Guinea’s Alpha Conde or Uganda Museveni, Africa’s old guards are marginalizing young people and we continue to clamor for more youth-centric governmental policies aimed at harnessing the replete human capital that is prevalent in our continent.
However, worthy of mention is the telling impact of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia who stands amongst Africa’s many other notable leaders for his new approach in handling Ethiopia’s many problems.
Today Ethiopia sits among the top two positions of highest GDP growth rate in Africa since 2018. It’s not that prime minster Abiy governments have been flawless, far from it but consensus agrees that Ethiopia has benefitted from a re-modeling of its economy and a fresh approach to its government policies.
We need political leaders focused on the conscious appeal of a tech-savvy generation. Initiatives like leveraging on information and communication technology, building smart cities, bullet trains, investing in a digital economy or eco-friendly environmental policies, et al are issues that ought to be in the front burner in our continent. Young people are already taking the lead through various burgeoning social & tech enterprise scattered all over Africa. However, there is a need for government policies and initiatives to integrate an enabling environment for young africans to lead the 21st century digital revolution.
As we celebrate another international Youth day even in the outbreak of a ferocious pandemic. Young people need to continue engaging, mobilizing grassroots audiences and taking part in pertinent civic issues that are crucial to the goal of dethroning the old guards rigid to change.