Time for Africa to be serious about its youth


THE habits of citizenship and comprehension of the political system to which a person subscribes to – like the curricula of language, fine arts, maths, science and professions – can be learned and practised.
The use of higher education to root democracy into the lives and expectation of citizens has been on the increase through US scholarship and student exchange programmes.
Through what is termed increased ‘democracy capacity building’, foreign students with the potential to become future leaders and opinion makers in their home countries are identified and offered the opportunity of a life time – to study in America.
This begins the process of teaching youths and young adults democracy the American way.
The school of thought that is pushing this new mechanism of bringing democracy to the developing world understands the old adage, ‘catch them young’.
The US Supreme Court Justice, Stephen Breyer draws the education democracy connection in his 2005 tract, Active Liberty, where he writes: “The people, and their representatives, must have the capacity to exercise their democratic responsibilities.
“They should possess the tools, such as information and education, necessary to participate and to govern effectively.”
The success of democracy structures and mechanisms as envisaged by the American establishment in the developing world is hinged on these ‘special students’ being able to return home and influence the adoption of a system of governance that opens those foreign lands to American hegemony for its businesses to find resources and markets.
In the aftermath of ZANU PF’s July 31 2013 election victory, papers were crafted to chart the way forward for the ‘democracy project’ that had become America’s baby despite that it was Britain who had given birth to the said child.
The central theme around most of these presentations was that the West must wean itself from supporting political parties like the MDC and focus more on civil society.
The logic behind this is that civil society while in support of the ‘democracy project’ would embark on democracy capacity building activities that are far reaching in comparison to the usual political sloganeering of politicians.
The rise of political civic groups in Zimbabwe has seen the emergence of a voter that is more informed about the democratic processes.
The sekurus and mbuyas in far flung places now understand that it is their right to demand transparency and accountability for their Government, and they now have a realisation that they have a powerful tool in form of their votes.
Political education is the way to go.
An article in 2013 in the Irish Times deliberated on whether or not Europe should focus on political education in its engagement with Africa.
“Individual Africans need to become more politically sophisticated.
“It is hard to think of a political party in Africa which genuinely professes, let alone practises, a coherent political philosophy. “Whereas parties in Europe espouse socialist, liberal or Christian democratic values, there is no indigenous African ideology beyond tribalism.
“Political parties are more often than not built around a commanding personality who offers tribal leadership and is rewarded with uncritical tribal loyalty.”
In November 2009, the Council of Europe organised an expert seminar on ‘promoting and sustaining the role of youth NGOs’.
The participants in this meeting, who were representatives of international and national youth NGOs, drafted recommendations on how the Council of Europe and other institutions and organisations could support youth organisations in sustaining their role.
The first course on democratic leadership and management of youth organisations was originally held in 2008.
The present edition of this course builds on this experience and the conclusions from the seminar on promoting and sustaining the role of youth NGOs.
This training course aims to enable young people actively involved in the running of youth structures to develop their attitudes, improve their skills and receive additional information and knowledge in order to manage youth organisations (programme, units or boards) in a democratic, efficient and effective manner.
Ultimately, these improvements should result in an increase of the quality of the activities these organisations run, in their sustainability and in their contribution to youth policy bodies and structures.
Given that Zimbabwe’s unemployment figures continue to increase, the prospects offered by the West to the nations’ youths and young adults are attractive.
There is already a set precedent by those who entered into the civil society community at the height of the regime change agenda mantra. When one becomes a human rights defender, a political activist, and so forth, it is understood that one is paid handsomely for their troubles.
The rise of some fellows from kombi riding, one jacket wearing behaviour to possession of homes in leafy suburbs, driving top of the range vehicles and vacations abroad, after entering the civil society movement is testament that there is money to be made when one fights for democracy.
The advent of social media has seen traditional parties like ZANU PF being left behind in disseminating their messages to the young. New technologies which have come with the advent of globalisation have connected young people on a global scale.
The vast majority of American teenagers are daily social media users. Research has shown that social media has strengthened relationships among the youth.
Many have friends they have not seen since school or who moved away, some just want to connect with their contemporaries in various parts of the world and social media provides this platform.
Social media has become part of the modern youth’s lifestyle.
According to an article in The Guardian, the social media has been recognised by brands as one of the few avenues they can use to access the youth demographic.
A report by the ‘Bean Group’ in 2013 indicated that students spend more time online than they do watching television or socialising with their friends.
And as such more and more companies have moved to social media marketing.
When one understands this then they can comprehend the reason why social media networks are being sold for billions of dollars.
African governments need to do more to ensure that they take an initiative to groom their youths with the political and civic education they need to participate in the global arena.
The practice of farming this role to Western organisations and states will prove to be deadly in the long run, while many African governments are focusing on working to control their natural resources after the yoke of colonialism had put them in the hands of Westerners.
But what would be the point of retaining control of a country’s resources when future generations are likely to willingly give them up because presently they are being taught value systems that differ from those of nationalists.
The mantra that our present leaders are working to secure the future for coming generations in Africa will be nothing, but a dream as the youths are becoming alienated from the dreams of our leaders through various initiatives by Western governments.


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