The young catalysts in Africa’s economic transformation

Last year I turned 36, and a friend sent me an SMS to wish me a happy birthday and inform me that I was officially no longer considered a “youth”.  In my new role as an “elder”, I can now take the time to ponder the role of young people, whose growth I have invested much of my life to, especially in regards to determining the future of Africa.

This afternoon, as part of a selection process for a high school scholarship programme, I had a flash-forward experience where I met the future president of South Africa – She is 12. I know who she is because she told me. The young lady gave a clear synopsis on the state of the nation, and what she would like to do. When challenged on some of her views she replied, “I don’t have all the answers yet, but this nation is not excellent, and when I am president I will solve the challenges.” A friend once told me that when someone tells you who they are, you should believe them – she’s onto something.


As I continuously work with 12–30 year olds, I am struck by the commonalities that they have as a generation. They are fearless, audacious, moralistic, courageous, and have a clear understanding of the shift that has taken place in the world. We, the non-youth, have an awareness of it, and yet they live it.   They are a generation with an absolute belief in themselves, both as members of their community and as individuals. The youth of today are unconventional and are not afraid to show “the man” the middle finger. They have personalized the future, and have a clear  understanding of what they can do and what they will dare. They are prepared to search the horizons for new solutions simply because they can, and they are not afraid of the answers – unconventional (for us!) as they may seem.

Today’s youth speak the same language as their peers and are largely on the same page. They understand their differences and similarities, and they are hungry for change. They were born into a world with HIV/AIDS, increased natural disasters and environmental degradation, unstable food security, and the golden arches. They have watched the leaders of the day make decisions, and our responses to them. They are not afraid to hold us accountable, and they have begun to do so. They are not afraid to “be the change they want to see” − the movement has begun.

They have mapped their own path, they know the direction – ours is to support them and follow. The child has become the parent; it’s a new world order.  Their role is to maintain focus and direction, and ours is to invest in them with useful education, and preserve their courage and ability to believe in themselves.

When I met the “president”, she and her peers had several things in common: they understood the need for self-preservation, loyalty and need to protect others, even those that have hurt them. They could not connect to failure – they each had varied appetites for risk. What was apparent was that each one had a clear vision and was prepared to attempt it. In the words of Seneca, “It is not because we dare that things are difficult, it is that we do not dare that they are difficult.”

The youth of this continent are like a well-thought through pension fund portfolio – if we make the right investment, in protecting the capital, it will pay off in the coming years.[/EXPAND]


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