On Africa’s Youth and Empowerment

In his brilliant article published in the 500th edition of New African Magazine (November issue, 2010) titled All Issues Great and Small , New African editor Baffour Ankomah tried to analyse why ‘the Asian tigers left Africa behind.’

He says that he is tired of people always saying that if Ghana and Nigeria were economically at par with Singapore and Taiwan when they attained independence, then the failure of these African states to keep up with the Asian tigers can only be laid on the feet of Africa’s leaders.

He goes on to explain why Africa lags behind, raising some very important points such as the effects of neo-colonialism and, more importantly, that Africa did not get the support received by Asian nations. It is a very convincing argument and, in my opinion, worth consideration.

But Baffour is a staunch pan-Africanist, a huge fan of president Mugabe and all other great African revolutionaries. His view, therefore, is that these great man are infallible, and when, in the few incidents that they err, then their mistakes are far less important than the wills and efforts of their detractors.

So in an otherwise brilliant article brother Baffour misses an important point: The revolutions in Africa have failed to grow at a rate comparable to those in Asia because in Africa the youth are not involved in government- at least not in any significant way.

Whilst external meddling, lack of investments and loans, sanctions and to some extend the dependency syndrome are factors that have derailed Africa’s economic progress, equally important is the simple fact that Africa has refused to change.

“In Africa, to say that the youth are our future is slightly misleading. Nearly 65% of the continent’s entire population is below the age of 35. Our youth are not only our future; they are also our present.”

– Ghanaian President John Mahama addressing the UN General Assembly last week.

Africa’s Youth must rise!

It is ironic- and sad- that the continent with perhaps the biggest percentage of youth also has the oldest leaders.

Our liberators have become intoxicated with power and the noise from their propaganda machines. They have the obduracy to believe that they, and they alone, know what is good for the people.

The old guard- and this applies to the whole continent- in continuing with their inexplicable obstinacy, and after shamelessly stealing from the countries they lead, engaging in nepotism, corruption and human right abuses still have the audacity to say that the youth cannot be trusted with power.

How they know that is beyond me, as they have never entrusted any youth with power.

We are not only denied political power, even more important, Africa’s youth have not been economically empowered in any commendable way. In the few instances that programs aimed at youth empowerment have been started, for example in Zimbabwe, they have been hijacked by politicians and the funds have not been given out in a fair and open manner.

Africa has failed to provide its young people with perhaps the most important tool that a person can have today. Education. Not just classrooms and blackboards, but quality education that a young man can use to confidently and without fear journey into the future.

Malcolm X had it right when he said education is the passport to the future.

The African youth is marginalized, disregarded, criticised, ridiculed and, eventually when he perseveres in spite of all that, he is persecuted, prosecuted and ruthlessly crushed.

But, as any student of science, philosophy, literature, history or indeed anyone with wisdom, would know, it is folly of the highest degree to try to impose stasis on a dynamic system.

It’s past time for African leaders to discuss youth empowerment, and discuss the topic without resorting to demagoguery, sentimentality, hidden agendas and political name calling.

The time for the African Youth has come.

That time is now, and we shall overcome!

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