Africa: its potential, and its prospects

Written by Elorm Haligah
 

“Africa must create an environment where people are rewarded for their hard work and not their personal contacts” – Mmusi Maimane 

Last week, I had the privilege of attending the annual lecture at The Royal African Society in London. The keynote speaker was with a man that I have been following for a very long time now, Mmusi Maimane. For a lot of people in South Africa, Maimane represents a new type of politics on the continent. He is currently the leader of the opposition party, The Democratic Alliance.

The reason why this is so significant, is because The Democratic Alliance has traditionally been seen as a racially divisive party and historically a place where Black South Africans seldom felt welcome. However, around the time of Barack Obama’s presidential election in the United States in 2008 the party was inspired to launch a rebrand of their image. The then party leader, Helen Zille pledged that the party would be more reflective of the nations rich racial, linguistic and cultural heritage. Zille also emphasised that she wanted the party to be a “party for all the people” and not decline into a “shrinking, irrelevant minority”. Therefore, the election of a black man is his mid-thirties, who appears to be in touch with the people has seen the party’s image rebrand come into fruition it seems, to a certain extent. Nevertheless, I was most interested in finding out if his politics truly represented a new politics that Africa as a whole could use to rebrand its image and reach its full potential. After hearing him speak, I was certainly convinced that this was his aim based on a few things he had said.

Firstly he made the point that governments must do everything in their power to facilitate small business. If we look at South Africa alone, youth unemployment is currently at 48.8%. Quite frankly, this is very worrying for one of the continent’s most developed nations. The benefit of having small businesses are endless for any country. Not only does it allow someone to turn their passion into a job, but it plays a pivotal role in alleviating youth unemployment. Small businesses traditionally have the privilege of putting low skilled but hard working young people, into a job to enable them to develop and nurture their skills. The freedom and responsibility a young person will get working for a small business in comparison to a multinational corporation, provides an unrivalled opportunity for them to develop their leadership potential.

Another thing he said was that Africa must create an environment that people get rewarded for their hard work and not their personal contacts. I remember visiting Ghana last year. I spent time with kids in a slum and spent some time with kids from private schools. The biggest difference between the two groups were their life experiences. Chances are, the people that went to the private schools, are going to end up in the higher echelons of influence, simply because their uncle or their cousin was able to make that introduction for them or give them that job, regardless of whether or not they worked hard to get there. Nonetheless, if our continent is to truly represent its people, it is so important that those from all backgrounds feel like they live in a meritocracy in order to breed an environment of fairness and hard work.

Finally, he mentioned that Africa must define its own national and international interests not relying on the likes of China. On the one hand, although countries such as China are welcomed throughout Africa as a partner, it cannot be denied that fear exists because of the unevenness in this relationship which will lead China to devour Africa and once again lead ordinary Africans to being excluded. The challenge here is that many feel a lot of deals involving African countries are not made for the benefit of its citizens. China has been Africa’s biggest trade partner since 2009. Bilateral trade stood at just under $11bn in 2000, by 2006 this figure had jumped to nearly $60bn and in 2013 bilateral trade had soared to $210bn. However, the argument that a lot of people bring to the table is that China is developing a colonialist relationship with African countries and their trade and investment is actually doing more harm for Africa than good. There is nothing wrong China remaining a strong partner with Africa, but African governments should make sure the benefit is mutual by increasing trade ties with China to enter into other Asian markets on a larger scale and to add a different dimension to the Africa’s export products.

The wonderful thing about Maimane is that he has spotted some key solutions that should really help to combat some of Africa’s major issues. He now has two main challenges. The first one being winning the election in 2019. Four years is a very long time in politics and so it is hard to predict. However, given Maimane’s meteoric rise to prominence, I certainly wouldn’t rule him out if I were a betting man. The second challenge is if he is elected, it will be to implement the policies and principles that he has pledged as solutions. In politics it always easier said than done especially if you are in opposition and so it will be interesting to see what actually happens if he gets into office. Nevertheless, in the meantime the best thing he can do, is continue to hold not only the current South African government to account, but keep on challenging the political status quo in Africa. His youth brings a different perspective to African politics and it is my hope that his rise to prominence does a lot to inspire other young trailblazers across the continent, to continue changing the story of Africa.

To find out more about The Royal African Society click here.

Competition: Attend the Commonwealth Youth Forum in Malta this November

Deadline: 30 September 2015 (5pm London time)


Bright Ideas is a campaign from The Commonwealth Secretariat that aims to showcase the ideas and activities of young people aged 15-29 from Commonwealth countries who are leading positive change in their community, country or region through their own innovative solutions to challenges large and small.

Bright Ideas events and videos are a great way to generate discussion about challenges facing the Commonwealth and solutions already coming to fruition.

For your chance to be in the running to attend the Commonwealth Youth Forum in Malta this November, send your Bright Ideas talk to youth@commonwealth.int by 30 September 2015 (5pm London time) and we will let you know if you’ve been selected. For full terms and conditions for this competition see: Bright Ideas T&Cs

Here is a guide on how to present your Bright Ideas talk. To see examples of some great Bright Ideas videos, click here

Lessons from the Nigerian 2015 Elections: Youth Engagement

 
Written by Georgina Sowemimo

I remember how I first became interested back in 1997. I was at the age of seven, having grown up watching BBC and CNN news every morning with my parents.  It was the day Tony Blair had been announced as the new Prime Minister, and at school no one seemed interested that the opposition party had just won election, which to me, was a pretty big deal.

My interest in politics further grew was further influenced by my faith. The verse in Isaiah 54:14 says ‘You will be secure under a government that is just and fair. Your enemies will stay far away. You will live in peace, and your terror will not come near’ really stood out for me.  This verse stands out because it encourages me as a Christian to go out and vote. The only way to be secure under a government that is just and fair is by making our voices heard, and affect change.The Nigerian general election in March 2015 was the fifth quadrennial election to be held since the end of military rule in 1999. It is also the election that saw the highest number of young voters ever in the country.

What made this year so different? Prior to these elections, the percentage of young Nigerians interested in politics was terribly low. This time however, more people below the age of 35 got involved in politics. Whilst statistics are unavailable to give precise data, my Twitter and Instagram feeds were filled with friends who live in Nigeria using hashtags (#NigeriaDecides, #Changeishere, #APCChange), announcing their alliance to political parties and attending rallies.In particular, the opposition party All Progressives Congress party (APC) ran a PR campaign that had the President-Elect, General Buhari as the face of change, the face for young people. He was always found to be meeting with young people at community groups and interactive sessions. His campaign management team were made up of people barely in their thirties.Thousands of young people gave up their time and resources attending rallies, donating various amounts to the campaign, or having a fun day out volunteering to campaign and effectively helped Buhari win the elections. Although the percentage is still quite low, it is now obvious that the young population have now realised the importance of politics, and are willing to get involved to make a difference by making their votes count.Here in the UK, turnout among 18 to 24 year olds has fallen from over 60% in the early 1990s to an average of 40% over the last three general elections (before the last). Research finds that the youth turnout rate in the UK is the lowest of all the 15 members of the old European Union. The turnout for voters aged 18 to 24 in Sweden was double the rate of their peers in the UK.

[1]According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), a survey of 40,000 households were questioned and found that 31% of 16 to 24 year olds were “fairly” or “very interested” in politics, so why doesn’t this translate in the polls?Many young people were becoming involved in politics in more informal ways, such as social media campaigns, but Will Brett, head of media at the Electoral Reform Society said: “We need to find ways of getting them more interested in our system of representative democracy. It’s extremely precious.” [2]I think the issue in the UK is that young people switch off when political engagement serves more as political advertising than genuine interest.Maybe politicians in the UK need to hire Buhari’s PR Company.

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2015/feb/25/political-parties-are-neglecting-young-people-its-time-for-unis-to-step-in%5B2%5D http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-26271935

The original article can be found here on http://wearecurrent.co.uk/

Closed: World Bank Group Recruitment Drive for African Nationals

Deadline August 31st 

The World Bank Group is launching a recruitment drive aimed at increasing the number of Sub Saharan Africans in its work force. This commitment to hire Sub Saharan Africans reflects the Bank Group’s senior leadership commitment for a diverse workforce in which African nationals can play a key role in fighting poverty and increasing shared prosperity. Employment opportunities will be in various technical areas and professional streams for talented and diverse young professionals and mid-career level professionals to contribute and grow their skills in a career in international development.

A career with the World Bank Group offers a unique opportunity for exceptionally talented individuals with a passion for international development to contribute to solving some of the world’s most pressing problems. Bank staff work with governments, civil society groups, the private sector, and others in developing countries around the world, assisting people in all areas of development, from policy and strategic advice to the identification, preparation, appraisal, and supervision of development projects.
Positions may be based in Washington, D.C. or in a regional office.

To apply for this fantastic opportunity  click here