Agenda 2063 of the African Union includes a “Call to Action” that urges Africans to support young people as drivers of Africa’s renaissance, through investment in their health, education and access to technology, opportunities and capital, and concerted strategies to combat youth unemployment and underemployment. To encourage exchange and pan-Africanism AU Clubs in all schools, colleges and universities are key as African Union Representative Auguste Ngomo explains to our reporter JACOB NANKHONYA.
How was the idea of African Union Youth Clubs arrived at?
During one of our meetings of Heads of State it was decided that we should involve more youth in our networking. Then we wondered how we could involve them. Then the idea of starting up a network of youth clubs across Africa was brought up by the then chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Primarily the clubs were supposed to be concentrated in educational institutions but then came the definition of youth as stipulated in the African Youth Charter as the youth being between 15 and 35 years. So we decided to change from African Union University Clubs to African Union Youth Clubs [AUYCs].
What approach are these clubs expected to take?
The approach is that these youths should be meeting their own ministers and key public office bearers and in so doing they are known and probably accepted. These youths when accepted are actually being called for meetings and discuss issues of youth interest within their country which would make it easier and understandable when the same interests are advanced with a bias of the continent at heart. I can give you an example, where in Nigeria someone from the AUYC has actually been recognised and has been made a youth ambassador for anti-corruption fight.
As AU why not address issues with your fellow seniors running different governments instead of using the youth?
As AU sometimes we resist on commenting on national issues because we consider them to be touching on nation’s sovereignty. On the other hand the youth clubs can easily comment on issues that are against Pan Africanism, for instance and no issue of sovereignty can creep in since the club members would also be locals.
How do you look at a situation where the youth are innovative and industrious but then the authorities do not acknowledge their abilities and the system goes to an extent of oppressing instead of utilising their talents?
This reminds me of the Bible story about Jesus Christ where he was hardly accepted by his own countrymen yet he was considered a prophet outside his town.
We have a problem in Africa we have a few percentage of people who are the leaders and are blocking such innovative youth and yet the youth are in large numbers. These are the people the continent needs in order to develop. It so happens that when rejected by their own countries these youths migrate and become useful elsewhere.
What therefore should such youth do in case of such oppressive environment?
It is difficult to be accepted by your own country, that is clear but my advice to the youth is that when such a thing happens to you don’t push yourself to a corner in resignation and say, no one wants me so I have given up, no! Fight on and claim your space. There comes a time when no one can ignore you anymore.
The youth need to realise their powers and be able to make use of that and make positive impact in their respective countries and the whole continent. You need to push on harder, innovation after innovation until no one ignores you anymore!
These kind of youth must not run away, they must stay within the continent and as much as they could suffer with the rest of us at the end of the day there is going to be an opening for them to make their contributions to the African continent because such innovators are what the African continent needs.
Any good results yet from these youth clubs?
I can tell you that clubs in countries such as Namibia are doing a commendable job of making the AU known in the country. At least people from across the country can now relate with the club and by extension the African Union as their own organisation.
We saw that people in Namibia have been hearing about the AU when their president goes to the AU Summits but they hardly relate with the organisation. Now we are making that connection with the organisation especially with the agenda 2063.
Now, what do you think is the biggest problem deterring development in Africa?
The first main problem for Africa is not material but rather mindset. We should wake up and be able to conceptualize. We should be able to say what is it to be African? What is our model for development? What is our dream?
Africa can be developed in 10 to 20 years with all the material wealth that it has but the question is where are we going.
So what needs to be done to develop African countries?
The first thing to do is to change our mindset. You get surprised when you talk with people about what they is development brought to them by government and they site boreholes and other similar structures. African governments ought to be careful with what they receive from other countries. A country should be able to ask itself that when one is being given a lot of money what is the donors’ interest? Countries don’t operate on charity, they have interests. The idea is to wake up people, don’t be foolish, you may end up realising that the so-called donation is actually compensation for whatever they may be taking from your country.