How Africans can better position themselves economically
With the outpouring of blessings from other countries, Africa does indeed stand tall with the amount of financial injections towards infrastructure, but the burning question in our minds is how can youth of Africa better position themselves in a direct or secondary way and how can they assist to make this capital go beyond its means . This essay will take you on a journey of how I believe African youth can do this.
Africa has one of the youngest populations in the world and with being young comes much vulnerability, but with a correct mind-set and vision, Africa can rise on eagle’s wing and soar with the economic freedom that we have anticipated. These sentiments were very evident in Christine Lagarde, Director of International Monetary Fund’s speech, where the theme was, ‘Africa Rising’. We cannot have an Africa Rising if youth in Africa do not have a vision. Hence I strongly attest that youth like myself and my other compatriots, put on the armour of a dream, a vision and a mind-set that some of our great leaders had, and lived to tell great stories.
Without vision youth do not have a passion to want to lead, help or inspire others. Youth must inform themselves and look at thought leaders, media personalities and even government officials or role models that are worthy of emulating. When youth have audacious goals and dreams, then nothing can stop them from performing at a world class level in every facet of their life.
After a clear set of dreams and visions are set out youth need to look at the basics towards being successful and helping communities. These are the quintessential values that are good and honourable to society. If these core principles are lacking in
youth, they can grow up to become selfish leaders that thrive at the notion of an unjust society and corruption can erode a great continent. Honesty, peacefulness and wanting people to prosper should be their mantra for the Nation. I can compare the concept of Ubuntu, where youth are willing to pick others up, teach class mates, go into abject poverty and use their skills, use education and knowledge to develop communities to flourish. When youth can prepare themselves with these simple yet core values then they will be ready for big infrastructure development in the continent.
Their passion and desire for education must supersede blindly getting married or falling pregnant, as many young women are forced into young marriages or are unaware of how to prevent pregnancy. Young men and boys should also raise their voices to help women and become responsible leaders to assist in crime prevention. Youssou Ndour singer and writer says that, ‘Women are the centre of economic, political and social change and they play a role in the prevention and resolution of conflicts’. Women contribute substantially to a country’s Gross Domestic Product. Youth must be thirsty for knowledge and education. Our great Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela felt that it gave us the power to change the world. With a High School education, University degrees and other qualifications, youth can impact their communities. Some youth lack the education but they can still have passions and skills to help to develop communities.
If youth can make these little steps now then these skills can add value to the investments coming in. Africa has a severe skill shortage and some youth feel that if they are in rural areas or if they are helping with agriculture at a family’s Small or Medium Enterprise that it means nothing.
This I feel is the starting to great business leaders (from grass root level) and contributors to future infrastructure developments in Africa. The passion does not pay off without the patience and the hard work to hone every single skill they can, while they help at a farm or in their community. Until one day they called to be part of a multi-billion dollar project in a mine in Africa. The possibilities are endless and, ‘Africa is Rising’.
Over my years as a student and now employed, I too have had a vision for the continent, with that I had taken liberty to become involved in Non-Governmental Organizations, Non-Profit Organization’s and charity work. At University I was part of ENACTUS. This organisation deals with and assists in reforming communities economically and socially. If youth do this, they can be seen and given opportunities to handle great tasks or visit other nations. Unfortunately, many youth feel that government needs to hand out jobs or become a Nanny State. This mind-set is incorrect. If they involve themselves in organizations that seek to add value to continent and here again, with skills and education they will better position themselves for high stakes in infrastructure and growth. There will not be a case of the blind leading the blind but instead youth who are aware.
While many youth think internships are a waste of time I feel that youth need to say that internships are a start to great strides. However a youth that feels that private and the informal sector should be in good relationships are thinking correctly. Youth must find a way (via internships, learnerships and shadowing) to get into private sectors and start to look at how they can reach out to the informal sectors. Africa does have a high rate of informal trade that can contribute to Gross Domestic
Product as well as letting others benefit from capital injections with a return on investment. This means that every person and not only youth will benefit from these investments whilst giving bright minded youth an opportunity to use knowledge as their power to make things happen.
South Africa has been infamous for strikes and youth too have been involved in many negotiations. While other African countries like Swaziland recently show that the strike mentality is getting copied by the continent. The strikes are severely eating our economy and investors are pulling back from what could be great for us. Youth are aware of corruption and they are aware of injustice but would need to find other means to build a strong relationship with parliament and government, where they use their voice without causing a detriment to the economy. Youth have this power especially in political arenas where they are given the opportunity to be part of youth leagues. The ego and power struggle must diminish and the relationship must be built so that they too can have a say and add value to the continent so that all stakeholders benefit. Strikes pertaining to social issues that do not interfere with the economy should continue as this is a way to bring people together to help fight a good cause.
Social Media platforms and blogs, for some youth are a great way to ruffle government’s feathers and have their say without harm to the Gross Domestic Product. I am not saying that youth should create a hostile feeling towards government, but channel their energy into compelling healthy arguments on online social platforms. With that being noted I feel that youth must become aware of technology and information systems especially in an ever changing technological
landscape. How can one benefit from capital injections if they do not understand the technology and planning behind every execution? Hence youth need to be aware.
When youth rely too much on government they disempower themselves to a certain level. So I will reiterate my point on education and working in rural environments. Youth need to find a love for numbers and literacy. Math, Science and being able to read can give them the added edge. And when youth have a dream they are opportunistic and look for opportunities, bursaries, international exposure and forums too.
These opportunities bring likeminded youth together to do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis of their community’s and the continent. This is called active-citizenship creating an open constructive dialogue. Some youth can take it further by looking at problems in their communities and getting other youth involved, developing structures in place to help leverage the investments. If youth are aware of every issue at a grass root level and educated, plus have the skills from their forums and community work, then they will surely make sure that the billions invested in infrastructure are spent in a thrifty and smart way.
Empowering young people can always be seen as the responsibility of the elders but from the above paragraph youth must be active rather than reactive and take on challenging tasks. This empowers them and gives them the ability to inspire and teach others. They need to believe in themselves. Some youth have ‘faith’ others have ‘faith with work’. The effort to help mentor and bless other young people will not only empower themselves but help pave a way of empowered younger people that are willing and able to take on any task at hand without anger and hatred. The
reason I mention anger and hatred is because youth are disappointed that they are not able to study or that they are not able to live comfortably but what about those that have fought before us? They have struggled too. We cannot be afraid of struggle and hardship because it is from this soil that we can rise up and assist the continent.
Youth must use their creativity and thinking out of the box to contribute to the creative economy. In order to solve real world problems youth need to be out of the box thinkers and problem solvers, especially those who have not had the opportunity to finish school and complete Maths and Science. They can still look for business opportunities and here again look for opportunities in their communities to help with infrastructure and development. There are many business success stories that we see from sheer determination but with no education. There is no time for a pity party, youth can equip themselves.
Fortunate youth have the opportunity to venture to 1st world countries. I plead with the youth from Africa to go these countries to gain knowledge and expertise but I urge them to come back and help Africa Rise and not leave their skills in another country by leaving Africa. Youth must keep the skills in Africa. These are the same youth that can see gaps in the market and become entrepreneurs. They can use these business opportunities to provide jobs in their communities and help build skills and educate employees. This prepares everyone for infrastructure development because they now have experience being employed.
Investment means so much opportunity for African youth and with proper infrastructure in place, a lot can change in communities. The community that has better railway lines or roads makes a way for children to go to school. Sanitation in infrastructure means that women would not be raped walking to communal toilets. Children will be protected from bacterial infections or suffer from diarrhoea and other sicknesses. It will more liveable for youth.
Energy and infrastructure allows power stations to be built, renewable energy opportunities, electricity, lighting homes and allowing small businesses to ignite and jobs to be provided. Families will have food on their tables and youth will be able to study under proper lighting.
Infrastructure not only adds value to a community but it helps eradicate social issues and makes life liveable for youth. Youth will have a sense of dignity living in an area where the infrastructure is well built. It is these same youth that need to be prepared to work and sustain infrastructure. The only way it can start is if they start with the little that has been given to them until things get better. The Continent and I are praying for this.
A Scout’s motto is to be prepared and I have always believed this. African youth should be prepared for change but also, ‘be the change they want to see in the world’ (Mahatma Gandhi). With infrastructure and development comes youth that can be bright young citizens. ‘With freedom comes responsibility’, and youth must work towards sustainable methods and ensure that their actions leave a good reaction to the next generation, leaving a champion legacy.
It is futile to say that Africa has investment coming in without the planning and the change of mind-set. This is a journey and success happens in phases but without vision, passion, core values and hard work we are unable to handle the investment and yet again seek outside help. ‘Re-imagine Africa’, and let the inspiration of Brand SA’s tagline shine, ‘Africa inspiring new ways’. Youth should be proud to be an African and help Africa Rise. I implore that the youth get the basics and fundamentals right so that they can benefit from any capital injections.