Young Africans are increasingly leading calls for change on how Africa should drive its developmental agenda. Here is what some of them told Naomi Nwauzu.
Be the change you want to see
“Development is great but only when governments make good economic and environmental decisions. At the same time, the average person can help bring about the changes they wish to see in their respective countries. They should be the change they want to see from their government – if you’re a market seller then you shouldn’t sell fake goods or deceive your customers in any way… We need to be able to work for the benefit of all, instead of only concentrating on our own self-gain.” Rebekah Grey-Bubu, Engineer (Nigeria)
SDGs look good on paper, but…
“The 17 SDGs are grand intergovernmental initiatives. Ideally, every individual should aspire for their realisation and any government with good governance practices should strive to concretise them. Whether the SDGs would solve deeply entrenched global problems and the means deployed to achieve them, is a separate debate. On paper, the language framing the SDGs is appealing. Practically achieving the SDGs requires the involvement of a wide range of stakeholders including governments, international organisations, the private sector and civil society.
“Already, there is an indication from the 2019 SDGs report that the implementation efforts are slacking. This is unsurprising because the current multilateral synergies required in the SDGs’ conceptualisation are demanding. To achieve the SDG targets, [in general] the state will have to take a positive leading role to facilitate other stakeholders’ contribution to the SDGs. Any future progress on the SDGs may have to go back to state politics and depend on the degree of societal transformation individual states are willing to introduce for these sustainable goals.” Adeelah Kodabux, Lecturer (Mauritius)
Beware of ‘dirty’ FDI
“Our countries simply do not have the balance sheet or leverage necessary for planned growth. Foreign direct investment into Africa is therefore paramount. Having said that, the West and recently the East, are extremely adept at selling African leaders troublesome terms and ideologies that come along with their investment. Clean FDI is the kind that moves through parastatals and can be helpful as long as African leaders insist on retaining and growing the value drivers that will ensure we don’t need foreign assistance the next time round.
“Dirty FDI exists in the practice of ‘foreign players’ selling the notion that the best way for Africa to achieve Goal X is to outsource the implementation to their foreign shores – oftentimes wholesale. In many cases, this is done through illegal channels with the foreign governments turning a blind eye. The dangerous ideology here is that the way of the West is the best way forward. In truth, the West is saying that it is better and smarter than Africa and so we should let them take the reins. Sadly, we keep listening and, in so doing, lose our identity as well as our economic future.” Nasi Rwigema, MBA student and a Mo Ibrahim Foundation Scholar (South Africa)
Foreign aid and better leaders
“Foreign aid is doing the work that should be done by African governments. Hence foreign aid is not wholly harmful because it is essential to the survival of the vast amount of people suffering from the actions of African leaders. I think most foreign organisations outside of Africa come to Africa to seek what Africa can do for them or what they can take from Africa as opposed to the impact they can make. To change this, we need leaders who are credible and knowledgeable, to negotiate and push back on undesirable agreements.
We can’t have leaders who have no clue and constantly sign agreements that have quick gains for them and long-term losses for their countries.
“If I was an African leader, I would pass a minimum wage act, so that those undertaking public service, including the average teacher and police officer, are paid enough so that they can focus on the quality of service they provide, as this has a huge impact on the economy, innovation and public safety.” Amani Kiflemariam, Impact Investing and Founder of Amatte (Eritrea)
As disciplined as a soldier
“In my view, education should be mandatory and handled by the army. The goal won’t be to bring up soldiers but to provide the average citizen with military rigour. Education should be provided in military-camp-like schools and start at the age of four. People should be taught sport, history – especially that of the continent – patriotism, hygiene, arts, democracy, the love of the people and useful sciences.
“The best students should get scholarships to go and study abroad and policy should make it mandatory for them to return to their home country once their studies are over…The state’s resources would be used to provide people with this proper education, which will be exclusively public…The workforce can then contribute to the development of the country because it will be well trained…this will allow some technological firms to relocate their activities to my country.” Panongbene Jean-Mouhamed Sawadogo, Student (Senegal)
We cannot ‘entrepreneur’ our way out of bad governance
“I think it is unfortunate that a lot of responsibility is subtly starting to rest on the shoulders of the citizen, or the young person, to solve problems we have elected leaders to take care of. It has been said, and, indeed, we cannot advocate or entrepreneur our way out of bad governance.
“That said; one way citizens can change the quality of governance is participating in the electoral process. We can get knowledgeable about the political processes in our countries and play our part to put in leaders that have character, competence, and the capacity to solve our problems; people we can hold to account. There is an urgent need to seek and consume better information/education because this will, in turn, lead to improved political awareness and consequently, better leadership choices being made in Africa.
“Africans also need to take respon-sibility for their bad behaviours and commit to unlearning and/or doing better. For instance, the violence (physical and sexual) against women and girls epidemic in Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa stems from the way women are generally viewed in society – as possessions to be acquired and used as desired – which must change, must stop. This is the reason why a number of us in Nigeria are trying to stimulate conversations about the rights of women, and not just push for the passage of the Gender and Equal Opportunity Bill.
“As far as I am concerned, a lot of responsibilities lie with the government of the day, but it does not absolve citizens of their statutory duties towards other citizens and the government.” Chioma Agwuegbo, Founder of TechHer (Nigeria)
Only the crumbs fall on our community
“I do not know too much about the reality of other African countries, but I can share my thoughts on what concerns my little country, Togo. I have worked for an NGO for the past five years. It has been operating for over 20 years and deals with tourism, environmental education and the protection of the natural environment but there has never been any support from our local government, not a single contribution, even though they know about our existence and our positive impact in the community. It seems that only the crumbs fall on our community.
“Togo’s new National Development Plan includes big plans and promises. We, the Togolese, want these changes and we are readily behind the government, but we pray that the government’s words are not empty.
“I think that for Togo to develop, it is important that the government integrates their development policies in all sectors of society, whereby all policies are in the same direction.” Apedo Komi Amen, Tour Guide (Togo)
Poverty can be eradicated
“The concept of poverty is relative. However, I believe poverty can be eradicated. Although we can never achieve a social equilibrium – where everyone is equal or has the same amount of resources – we can achieve a global system where no one can be left behind, a system where everyone can afford basic needs including food, clothing and shelter. As an optimist, I believe absolute poverty can be eradicated if the world leaders, multinational corporations [and NGOs] invest more in education, youth development and industrialisation.
“If the current generation could be equipped with education, and investments could be made to create jobs to accommodate the increasing population in Africa, then absolute poverty could be eradicated in the next four or five decades.
“African countries can also learn a lot from the transformation of some countries in Asia. When China was faced with a growing population crisis, it implemented the ‘one-child policy’ while utilising its cheap labour to industrialise. China has invested a lot in technology and has today become one of the biggest economies in the world. African countries must equally make efforts to control the growing population while implementing measures to industrialise.” Richard Kweitsu, Co-founder of Global Advocacy and Development Initiative (GADI-Ghana) and a Mo Ibrahim Foundation Scholar (Ghana)