It is a cold Friday afternoon, early April 2014, in the Capital of Northern Africa’s prominent nation Tunisia – the country that saw the genesis of the Arab Spring. The final day of Youth for Results Network’s Knowledge and Training event is here. Youth for Results Network (Y4R) is the youth sub-set of Africa for Results Initiative (AfriK4R) under Africa Community of Practice (AfCoP). This initiative has a core mandate of sharing knowledge and best practices on Managing for Development Results (MfDR), bringing together practitioners from governments, the civil society, the private sector as well as the academia.
The auditorium is filled with reflective faces. The chilly weather quite contrasts the warm mood of the occupants of this auditorium. Young development professionals from many walks of Africa have been here for the last three or four days attending the much anticipated training on Managing for Development Results (MfDR) with a youth perspective. This event, organized and facilitated by Africa Community of Practice on Managing for Development Results (AfCoP-MfDR) and Africa Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) was aimed at equipping key young African leaders with the requisite knowledge on development issues, to enable them effectively play their role in helping Africa achieve sustainable economic development, social progress and poverty reduction. This is in keeping with the realization that sustainable development in Africa may only be sustainable indeed when the youth are involved. You may be asking why.
This focus on the youth stems from the belief that youth face an exciting era of possibilities with technological advancements like computers, mobile phones and the internet, which can facilitate learning and expose youth to many opportunities. African youth have the power within their reach, to influence their communities and represent the social and economic future of their respective societies. Furthermore, youth represent Africa’s future workforce since two thirds of Africa’s population of one billion is under the age of 35. Over 35% of Africans are between the ages of 15 and 35 years. This makes the Sub-Saharan Africa the youngest and the fastest growing region of the world, leading to the popular term, ‘youth bulge’ which is both an opportunity and a challenge for the continent.
These young people gathered here in Tunisia are well aware of these statistics. But even more compelling, they are aware of a myriad of shared challenges that face them and their colleagues back in their home countries. To cite a few, of the 10 million youth living with HIV/AIDS globally, 6.2million are found in Africa. Most of these young people are too poor to afford anti retroviral drugs. The participants here are also aware that on average, 72% of young Africans live below 2 dollars a day. This, coupled with scores other disturbing statistics related to youth unemployment and poor governance in most African countries, make a case that there is evidently, an urgent need to address youth issues on the continent. Time is ripe for no more talk but action. Strategically launched and professionally guided action against youth deprivation and marginalization in Africa. The billion dollar question is who is going to be trusted with this task? I throw a random scan across the auditorium again, and I see reflective faces. Having intensively learnt incredibly invaluable lessons pertaining to Management for Development Results – with components such as leadership for results and results based budgeting among others – these young people are ready and their faces reflect this. They are ready to take up the challenge that is before them, for as it was said of old; great is the opportunity that lies in every challenge. I therefore take a random one-on-one with few of the participants.
“A key lesson I have learnt here is that managing for results allows for integration of social change management in our daily work,” remarked David Takawira, a prominent youth leader from Zimbabwe, who also doubles up as Program Coordinator for Norwegian People’s Aid in his country. Takawira continues, “my piece of advice to young people in Africa is that we need to go back to the basics of community work and mobilization, since social movements require a critical mass supporting our networking tools.’
From David, I meet Matar Faye, the Chairperson of Give1 Project, Senegal. Asked what he thinks of the situation of African youth in view of managing for results. Faye minces no words.
“I am motivated, by this Knowledge and Learning Event, to do more result oriented work with the youth. I have decided to strategically involve myself rather than wait to be involved, which may never come to fruition.” Faye, also a successful young entrepreneur who is the founder and CEO of M&F Clothing Company, challenges young people in the continent to stop complaining and start working. At this point, I spare some moments for my thought process to take this in. As a youth leader from Kenya, I already feel so challenged. But I have to get more views. So I catch up with the 22 year old CEO from Ghana, John Armah. This focused, tactful and knowledgeable young man is the founder and Executive Director of Ghana Centre for Entrepreneurship, Employment and Innovation (GCEEI). He says this event has enlightened him a great deal on the basics of results-based budgeting, which is a pillar of managing for development results. He also challenges African youth to use innovative approaches in addressing their plight, adding that African problems need African solutions which are found in Africa.
Sticking with Ghana, Mona Niina a young Evaluation Coordinator is concise, “After so much enlightening, we have to go back and act! Let’s not forget to create synergies through collaboration.”
Lastly, I get to talk to young Landry Ndriko Mayigane from Rwanda, the founder and President of Youth Action against Climate Change. He says it is incumbent upon us to share knowledge with other youth in our communities and countries for more enlightening. Landry also challenges youth in Africa to be more conscientious and active rather than being passive observers. And his comment reminds me that knowledge sharing is at the core of Youth for Results Action Plan developed in Harare, Zimbabwe in 2013. I long to have talked to a few more but I see them engaged in completing their group assignments which are to be presented in moments, so I take the humble pie.
From the words of these young visionary leaders, I see and quite concur, that it is not enough to highlight and enlist the problems of African youth. More, a lot more is required. Urgently so. In the words of Ruth Aine, a young Online Communications Specialist from Uganda, the youth need to equip themselves with knowledge and requisite tools that will render them ready to take up challenges and prove their worth in taking Africa forward. Only then will people take them seriously.
As I draw the curtains on this piece, I am compelled to share a thought that originated from Nigeria’s Rotimi Olawale, founder of and CEO of Youth Hub Africa and Coordinator of Youth for Results Network.
“In 1963 when The Organization of African Unity (OAU, now AU) was formed, there was no internet. The numbers of aircrafts, airliners and flights in Africa were meager. Yet with these, and amid a myriad other setbacks, Africa’s founding fathers traversed the continent, held meetings, made declarations and birthed OAU. If they could achieve so much in that environment of resource constrains, how much more can we achieve today?”
A definitive characteristic of change makers throughout history is their orientation to action. The onus indeed, is on us!