By Ronald Ssekandi:
Of late, under our Organization Writing Our World, we are conducting a project in which we are working with a select group of young writers to tell the stories of local peace builders in Uganda. By combining peace and conflict studies with learning skills in writing, debating and spoken word, we hope to bring up Africa’s next generation of young people who are critical thinkers and community activists.
Last week, while discussing the topic of “African conflicts and solutions that have been and should be found” I gave them an exercise to write essays under the title “My Vision for Africa”. I was really impressed by some of the suggestions and dreams these young people have for our continent and I want to share some of them with you!
One student began his essay as thus – “The long time and very bothering question then springs up, where is the problem? From a personal though critical point of view, I argue that the African crisis is deeply rooted in the early era of colonialism. The white man very firmly built a ‘superior’ culture, one that our forefathers by virtue of “white superiority” were compelled to adopt and so have all the generations there after. Take for instance ours means of farming; early history proves that the white man created a source of agro raw material in Africa, as such, the Africans grew, harvested and sold agro produce to the whites and later they, the whites, returned products and sold them at double the original price, why wouldn’t the Africans remain poor?” This opening statement depicts he general African blame game towards colonialism and the white man. And I am not saying it is not true, but as a continent, we ought to rise from the history of blame and build our future.
Another student also noted the same of our continent lamenting that “The familiar tale of Africa is, a continent characterized with rampant diseases, misery, wars and famine, wasted lives and squandered opportunities.”
Coming to their visions and dreams for Africa, one participant wrote “Economically, I look forward to an Africa that embraces agricultural projects, has a sound market for them and equips people with fundamental knowledge as regards to agricultural practical skills. I see an Africa with plantations of coffee, cotton, maize, and cocoa among other crops being the first producer of high quality and quantity cash crops in the world market. An Africa with high scientific technology, which manages and operates its own mineral schemes, protection of the precious natural resources like gold, diamond, and better use of energy without necessarily seeking investors who aim at profiting their own countries and exploit Africa leaving it poor” I felt that these dreams in economics would take us a great deal towards progress if only they could be implemented.
Moving on to governance issues, another noted that “It would really help Africa to have peaceful change of government, with reasonable term limits at that. Many African conflicts start with the failure to change from one regime to another without the leaders at stake getting at each other’s throats. An end to this promises more peace for our continent due to the phasing out of post-election violence like the one that went on in Kenya in 2007”. And indeed, electoral democracy and regime changes pose a great deal of challenges all over Africa and if we could find a way of solving this amicably, we can have a bright future.
“…it is really vital to advance momentum towards a healthy Africa because socially it has been all alone subjected to health fortunes with diseases like AIDS which was designed from United States of America with an intention of reducing the African population. With momentum towards the health sector, Africa shall be in position to fight other social inconveniences”. Even if cluttered with a conspiracy theory towards the USA, I believe that the issue of health is important to Africa and carrying out reforms herein will help us a long way into the future.
Another student includes another issue on her dream list,Â “Pan-Africanism; this concept may sound out-dated and awfully reminiscent of our primary school history lessons, but it is actually needed. It is about time we fell in love with the idea of a unified Africa: a common currency, common market, strong regional blocs (which unite to form one unshakeable entity), and a supreme government, along with exalting of the good points of African culture like the sense of community, and African music, instead of shying away from it”.
Discussing youth and employment opportunities, one student stated “In comparison to the ongoing employment levels, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) reports that up to 82% of African workers are poor. 70% of Africa’s youth live on less than US$2 per day internationally defined as poverty threshold. More than 60% of the youth in the republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Rwanda, Senegal and Uganda are either self employed or contributing to family work. I envision an Africa were retirement age is respected so that the youths, newly graduates with fresh minds and brilliant ideas can get chance to not only implement them but also to find employment”. As I always say, entrepreneurship is one of the premises through which this challenge can be addressed.
I am a great enthusiast in education and a critic of our education system in Africa, and this particular student captured this concern well “Education wise, in such a growing and resource rich continent, an aggressive education system to supplement the already existing formal education, producing a practically and not theoretically active labour force to cater for economic development by maximizing production would provide an ideal Africa”. It is encouraging to see that there is an increasing awareness within products and players in the education system that a lot needs to be done to refine it.
Africa may have so much to deal with in terms of challenges, however, the opportunities and prospects for growth are in plenty and hence the need for us to harness faith in our continent. With such young people coming to the scene, one can only be hopeful!