The year 2014 started on an all high not just in Africa but around the entire world. There is a buzz of activity on almost all fronts; economic, social, political and an amalgamation of either. As the year continues to unfold, here is my list of things I hope to see:
An end to armed conflicts in the Great Lakes Region
Earlier this year, South Sudan broke into a conflict that has seen the world’s youngest democracy break down into a slaughter house. Some say that the current rampant killings are based on ethnicity due to the striking characterisation of the warring parties to be Dinkas and Nuers. Others say this is just another political conflict. One thing is for sure; ethnical or political, masses of people have been killed, thousands displaced and a country’s dreams shattered.
The Central African Republic is also entangled in a genocide characterized conflict with Christians against Muslims. It is saddening to see machete clenching men razing the streets to hunt fellow humans who pay a different religious allegiance to theirs. The Democratic Republic of Congo as usual continues with various armed cocoons springing up each day. We have also witnessed in the recent past an escalation of conflict between Rwanda and Tanzania over the DRC based FDLR rebels as counter accusations are thrown from one side to the other.
I could go on and on spelling out the different conflicts within this region. My dream this year is to see an end to most of these conflicts. Our region being rich in vast resources is a big factor to most of these conflicts and how I wish big corporations and governments would learn to exploit and share resources without necessarily sacrificing the lives of people.
Reduction in youth unemployment and a rise of social entrepreneurship
If you took a random sample of the statistics of unemployment on our continent, you would be shocked to find that the continent with the world’s youngest population is having the highest figures of unemployed youth. This week in Uganda, the oldest government run University; Makerere University is holding its graduation ceremony and yet again vast numbers of “educated” youth will storm the job market. Truth be told, many of them will replace the joy of graduation with the frustrations of job hunting, minute salaries and harsh job conditions. Many will fall into the informal sector while others who are lucky enough will scamper to the Diasporas in what we famously call “kyeyo” to look for better opportunities.
I strongly believe in entrepreneurship as the solution to the challenge of youth unemployment in Africa. Being entrepreneurial to me means the ability to think creatively in order to create opportunities for growth (economic, social or otherwise) Being in a continent with vast untapped natural resources; Africa is a seedbed for juicy entrepreneurship. We can create massive opportunities in tourism, mineral and energy exploration, trade and commerce amidst other sectors.
Once the spirit of entrepreneurship is mastered, we must advocate for and promote social entrepreneurship. This simply means that we look at the challenges that our communities face and the needs they have and create economic opportunities around them. This week the US Ambassador to Uganda, Scot H. DeLisi toured AfriPads; a venture that has come up with innovative ways of creating and availing sanitary towels to especially the rural dwellers. My friend Emmanuel Bukenya started Mwoto a few years ago as a social venture producing environmental friendly stoves that used less fossil fuel and conserved heat hence is making cooking, especially in rural areas, easier. While making money to better himself other youths, especially by the distribution of these stoves, Emmanuel was able to solve a community need and challenge that many rural dwellers face. He is also able to contribute to the conservation of our environment by reducing on the quantity of trees being cut down for firewood since these stoves use simple fuels such as maize cobs to generate sufficient heat for cooking.
I met various stories of youth social entrepreneurs springing up across Africa and I would love to see many more coming up this year with new solutions solving our challenges and needs and creating employment not just for themselves but for their peers. The State Department of the U.S government last year through President Obama launched the Young African Leaders Initiative in which 500 young African leaders will be trained and mentored in Washington in the summer of 2014. I am delighted by the evident stress on entrepreneurship development that this program encompasses and hopefully, we shall see many new ventures rising out of this. For the U.S, it is a chance to build new economic partnerships in Africa that will see their corporations partnering with Africans for economic and social growth.
Restoration of order in the Arab world
When what has come to be known as “The Arab spring” started a few years ago, we were all delighted and exited that finally democracy was coming to a region that was formerly grasped in bad leadership. Gaddafi fell in Tripoli and we cheered, Mubarak was put on the sidelines in Egypt and we rejoiced, the order changed in Tunisia, people took to the streets in Turkey, Syria and so many other countries in the region. It was a spill effect in which people that felt oppressed rose up to fight for democracy and freedom.
Years down the road, we have not seen a conclusion to this great revolution. We gave so many guns to Libyans to fight Gaddaffi and now we watch as these very guns are being used by nationals against each other, in Egypt we have watched as one government replaces the other and people keeping on the streets for years, in Syria, we are ashamed as the conflicts sprawls to neighbouring countries like Lebanon claiming lives of innocent people!
Is this the picture we want in this world? Do we want to continue shedding innocent lives in the name of “democracy”? Yes, freedom is expensive and costs lives, but how many are we willing to see perish? I hope 2014 is the year we finally get our sanity back and end this.
My dreams and hopes for 2014 may seem idealistic in nature but I hold unto them anyway for one reason only; “what if it comes to pass?”. I imagine a better world with families that would finally get a chance to sit down and have a good meal without looking over their shoulders.
Sending you love from an extremely hot Kampala and wishing you all a great 2014.