Our guest blogger today is Alioune Badara Camara, a ONE Youth Ambassador in Belgium. Alioune is a Senegalese national who moved to Europe eight years ago to study and build his professional experience.
Since moving to Europe, I’ve worked hard to change the image that many people have of my continent. Of course there is extreme poverty in Africa, and of course we need to end this as soon as possible. But we Africans are not looking for hand-outs or a continuation of the status quo, but real change and sustainable solutions.
So why would a young African like myself want to be a Youth Ambassador for the ONE Campaign and lobby MEPs to pledge to end extreme poverty by 2030? The answer is simple – because I KNOW we can end extreme poverty and by getting European and African leaders on board, THIS campaign can actually achieve something real and concrete.
Although there is a lot of development work happening everywhere, for me, the ONE Campaign offers something different. By raising awareness, and by persuading world leaders to commit to ending extreme poverty by 2030, the ONE Campaign can have a real and wide impact.
In the next couple of months, us Youth Ambassadors have been delegated to assist ONE in getting MEPs to sign the ONE VOTE 2014 pledge. With support from MEPs like Arlene McCarthy, Said El Khadraoui and Corina Cretu, who’ve already signed the pledge, I feel like we’re already making progress towards achieving a goal that is completely within reach!
What do I mean by real and concrete achievements? Take the example of the Ghanaian President, Mr John Dramani Mahama, who the Belgian Youth Ambassadors had the great pleasure to meeting a few weeks ago. Not only was his talk inspiring and motivating, but more importantly he was humble and, well, real. When I asked the President about his food security vision for Ghana and the region, he gave an honest answer:
We need to produce cash crops to finance our imports, but we should not be over dependent on this and focus on feeding our people. A fair balance is needed.
And that’s exactly the message that ONE is spreading around Africa today – invest in agriculture and it will pay, by creating food security and lifting people out of poverty.
African artists like Tiken Jah Fakoly and Femi Kuti have put their voices behind the Do Agric, It Pays campaign (check out the great musical collaboration of African artists on Cocoa na Chocolate!) inciting my compatriots to sign a petition to get our leaders to stick their promises and invest in African agricultural development.
Growing up in the Senegalese capital Dakar, I’ve had first-hand experience as to how crucial and urgent urban and rural food security is for the livelihood of the Senegalese people, as well as for the development prospects of my country. Without a functioning and flourishing agricultural system in place, we will continue to have to rely on imports to fulfil our nutritional needs. If the 2008 food crises taught us anything, is that the status quo is not a sustainable solution.
Investment in agriculture is part of the real change I was talking about earlier. It can not only help us to achieve food security, but it can form the basis of developing our economic system and support other vital sectors such as our rising services industry.
As a Youth Ambassador, I will work hard to raise awareness with politicians, young Africans living in Brussels and the wider public, on the importance of supporting African agriculture. As an African, the Do Agric, It Pays campaign is something I can truly believe in, and like the Africans promoting concrete solutions back home, I too am proud to put my own voice behind this campaign.