Brooks Atkinson an American theatre critic who worked for the New York Times described the reasons for America’s greatness. He stated, “This nation was built by men who took risks-pioneers who were not afraid of the wilderness, business men who were not afraid of failure, scientists who were not afraid of the truth, thinkers who were not afraid of progress, dreamers who were not afraid of action. Which African nation can boast of such characteristics? We need to cultivate such qualities in our future leaders.
Why are African nations incapable of escaping poverty? When will we start to compete with the rest of the world in science, innovation, and economic might? Why is it that in over fifty years of independence we have not changed from primary producers to manufacturers of finished goods? Where have we gone wrong? How do we change our predicament?
Kwame Nkrumah, a visionary African leader would be turning in his grave if he was alive, to witness the anarchy in some regions on the continent. East Africa, a former powerhouse on the continent has morphed into a region of instability, war and terrorism. Nkrumah’s dream was to create nations that were not only a “pool” to source raw materials but an economic force with its own industrialized bargaining power. Many African countries are living below the breadline without the basic human necessities like: access to clean water, sanitation, accommodation and education. In fifty years we have failed to produce many shining examples of fair, honest leadership. Our continent has been marred with dictators like Idi Amin Dada, a former British army lieutenant who later styled himself as “His Excellency President for Life”. Then there was Mobutu of Congo, Charles Taylor who is currently on trial for crimes against humanity at The Hague. Most of these dictators had a common trait. They were once the darlings of their country, seen as liberation heroes, but somewhere down the line lost their way.
How does a continent begin to heal from decades of bad governance? How do we purge the continent of leaders with archaic ideology, corrupt leanings and self- enriching tendencies? How much blame rests on the shoulders of each African?
We are guilty of not standing up and demanding truth and transparency for fear of retribution. There are not enough dissenting voices driving the need for change. A nation with a weak civic society is a nation setting itsel up to fail. African youth have to fill this gaping hole of civic responsibility, acting as watchdogs and challenging the status quo.
Succession-planning and grooming of young future leaders with the right qualities is imperative. African governments should make this a priority and include it in their policies.
Young Africans have little interest in participating in matters concerning politics. The youth expend their energy on attaining materialistic possessions, forgetting that in order to secure their aspirations, their country needs to have sound governance. African youth must serve as the voice of society. They ought to become the conscience of a nation reminding its leaders that another generation will follow and therefore decisions made should be of benefit to future generations. The youth of Africa need to create an organisation powerful enough to influence policies in government and leadership positions.
We need to bring about change. We need a generation of strong-minded youth similar to the generation who helped to fight for our independence decades ago. We need a revolution!
I want to extend a challenge to African youth to develop our abilities to dream, think and act. We need dreamers who can dream up visions of a future far beyond our imagination. We need innovative thinkers who are not afraid to push the boundaries and challenge societal norms. Finally, we need doers to act on the dreams and innovation to create concrete plans with a vision to build and develop Africa.
This is the time for the Youth of our continent to become part of a shift in mindset and social conscience.
Written by: Kate Nkansa