Taking a long term view by Carl Manlan

Africa’s youth needs to believe in the future of the African continent. There are multiple reasons that may suggest that the Africa we want might be impossible. Previous generations, unlike Africa’s youth, did not have access to technology and real time information, yet they stamped the world with their contribution to human progress.

The opportunities that previous generations created are signposts on the road to transformation. For the Africa we want, challenges are inherent to the required progress. Youth should not be deterred from believing in the future. We have models that we can learn from and emulate.

Many young Africans chose the long road to transformation. Their actions reflected their belief in the future of the African continent. At 21, the Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta, left his homeland and performed a series of extraordinary journeys that spanned nearly three decades that took him as far away as India, China and to the Volga river and south to Tanzania. At 26, Amilcar Cabral founded and led student movements on the belief that the future of Portuguese colonies in Africa could be different. At 32, Mansa Musa became King of the empire of Mali, and is thought to be the richest person of all time. At 35, Abdul Gamel Nasser was a Colonel in the Egyptian army and became president at 38. At 38, Queen Nzinga was sent by her brother to negotiate with the Portuguese.

How many young people refer to their African history and heritage to understand the road less travelled? We have to claim the knowledge of those that preceded us to learn from the opportunities that they created to chart a pathway for human progress. They made a conscious decision to invest in Africa, the continent that heard their first cry. Born on the continent, they chose to change the status quo because they believed in the future of the continent. Our number one priority is to restore our belief in the future of the African continent.

Challenges should not become the landmark of resignation. Simply because the belief in the potential of the African continent must remain the compass that guides us so that everyday we contribute to human progress. How did they come to a common definition of human progress? That was the challenge that many young people faced in different times in history on the African continent. Creativity and unity delivered on the promises as resources that were deemed inexistent or unreachable became a part of the solution as they led others to believe that it was possible.

African youth needs “to see through the fog.” But they take their cues from parents and the adult community that is supposed to provide them with the tools to make informed decision. Some of us are unable to believe in the future hence that level of pollution, injected in their minds, creates a polarised youth. Parents and adults alike need to interrogate their contribution in creating pathways for youth. As a community, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves so that knowledge becomes an inter-generational transfer to open the minds to the world as it was, as it is and as it could be.

One of the pillars of the transformation that ought to clear the pathway to human progress is rooted in agriculture. Yet, African youth deserts rural areas, desert schools and roam the streets of the cities in search for short cuts. We have a joint responsibility in turning youth apathy and disbelief in the future into an engine of transformation. Songhaï, in Benin, works to restore farming as a pathway for young people so that they can create wealth for their families, their countries, and Africa.

Our challenge to overcome, is to balance the reality of the Africa we have with the promise of the Africa we want. In between, there is the hard work of transformation. The reality is that opportunities for transformation abound. To believe in the future requires a long term view on the continent so that each day youth and supporters alike might go further than we ever thought.