It has been said by great philosophers that an individual has not started living until he/she can rise above the narrow confines of his/ her individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.
I am optimistic that one day we have to unpack that so as to have a common understanding that will go a long way in shaping our thinking and broaden our scope of knowledge to intensify the festival of ideas.
When Thabo Mbeki declared on the 8th May 1996, the “I am an African” speech, very few of us understood the prescience, the wealth, the intensity, the challenges and the impact encapsulated in these four words. In this speech; Mbeki ignited the question of Africa’s originality, civilization, history, education, socialization, perspectives, interpretation, science, technology, wisdom and uniqueness but also interdependency with others, to name just a few.
Mr. Mbeki in essence challenged the Africans to engage in debate of redefining and understanding themselves: who they are?, where they come from?, and where are they going in this increasingly globalised world, their way of life, education, state of mind and understanding of the world consistent and compatible with this clear African identity, also in what way Africans are equal to others.
The most affected by this notion is the African YOUTH, this is because youth are said to be the future of the nation, the future generation, and the bearers of memory therefore knowledge holders.
The youth today is dominated by the western culture, especially American culture. Furthermore, there is a challenge of a shrinking globe that is quickly becoming a global village dominated by American influences.
This global village is at risk of operating under monoculture, mono-knowledge and mono-language, at the risk of alienating the majority of the world population. The challenge in the 21st century is how populations will co-exist as equals within diverse contexts of the world with multi-knowledge, multi-cultural and multi-lingual points of reference in the context of Africa; this is a basis for the advancement of the African Renaissance.
According to a study done by NEPAD, there have never been as many young Africans as there are now. The roughly 800 million young people in Africa represent an untapped potential, yet they also face significant challenges for this diversity and for the renewal and rebirth of Africa.
Today’s youth need to understand that they are integral to the process of development across all sectors and fields of interest; yet there are so many challenges they face among other is the plight of HIV AIDS, unemployment, hunger, poverty and dynamism of borrowed cultures which pose as a challenge in our venture to renew our continent.
However, the youth need to be reminded that apart from all the challenges they face; they also have a unique responsibility of expanding the existing vision of Africa’s rebirth and renewal. One of the ANC leaders Albert Luthuli said “Where there is no vision, the people perish”.
Today’s youth may have very different ideas unlike their predecessors, the Bandung youth, the youth of 1960-70s and the youth of 1980-1990s. The combination between them and the older generation resulted in a final liberation of the entire African continent. This ushered a new challenge for the youth of today who grow up and mature into an already established liberated political culture.
The youth today need to move ahead by thinking together and planning together so that they may contribute in changing our continent such that it is livable and that there is quality of life. The time has arrived that Africa’s youth claimed the twenty-first century by advancing in African Renaissance.
The role of youth in advancing the African Renaissance is for them to take the responsibility to drive the survival of our Africa’s indigenous knowledge systems and connect with their own culture and traditions so that they promote, protect and innovate it such that they may relate to the world, with multi-knowledge, multi-cultural and multi-lingual point of reference embedded in Africa’s knowledge.
In his recent speeches Thabo Mbeki said “The call for Africa’s renewal, for an African Renaissance is a call to rebellion. We must rebel against the tyrants and the dictators, those who seek to corrupt our societies and steal the wealth that belongs to the people.”
We must rebel against the ordinary criminals who murder, rape and rob, and conduct war against poverty, ignorance and the backwardness of the children of Africa.
It is to these that we say, without equivocation, that to be a true African is to be a rebel in the cause of the African Renaissance, whose success in the new century and millennium is one of the great historic challenges of our time”
I regard myself as fortunate to reflect about the challenges of the youth because when I started contributing in this festival of the ideas, I was part of the glorious Youth organization and today I am a product of that formation.
It is relevant to quote the words of the late Samora Machel ( President of Mozambique) when he said :
“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Even a superficial look at history reveals that no social advance rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle, the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. Without persistent effort, time itself becomes an ally of the insurgent and primitive forces of irrational emotionalism and social destruction. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is the time for vigorous and positive action.”