This article was originally written for Face of Africa Magazine for their semester issue themed “Yes Youth Can”. Face of Africa is a print magazine. Articles are posted online shortly after publications. “Yes Youth Can” focuses on what people under the age of 35 have done or can do to make a difference in the African continent with a focus on activism.
The former President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki recently launched a Foundation which aims to make the 21st Century an “African Century”. Those who keep abreast with African current affairs will be aware of the enormous sacrifice and hard work that is required to achieve this goal. Upon reading the Vision Statement of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation, I asked myself how ordinary Africans, particularly the youth, could make the 21st Century an “African Century”.
As African youth, it is not easy to influence our community, country or continent because of economic, environmental, cultural, and political barriers. I often hear young Africans say that it is easier to participate in activities such as excessive partying and drinking and drug use that distracts and robs them of valuable time than contribute to positive initiatives to help turn the 21st Century into an “African Century”.
You may think that as an individual you cannot possibly make a difference. My challenge to you is to think differently. Consider these statistics about our population dynamics. Africa has a unique population profile called the demographic dividend (for further reading on the subject The Demographic Dividend). Forty-four percent of Africa’s population was under 15 in 2006. ninety-five percent of Africa’s population is under 65 years old.
So what does this all mean? The youth of Africa constitute the majority of our continent’s population. Individually we may not be able to influence our societies, but collectively we are a force that can help turn the 21st century into an “African Century”. It is our responsibility as African youth at academic institutions to find ways to raise Africa to dignity and prosperity. Young Africans in universities are at an advantage because they have access to resources; understand how to use new technology and know the importance of social media to influence change. We still have idealistic worldviews uncompromised by pessimism and have the energy and time to contribute to worthwhile initiatives. A combination of all the qualities could result in a veritable African revolution.
I have been investing my time and energy in a new initiative called “The Watu Afrika Project”. When I consider the potential impact this project could have, it makes me excited and optimistic about Africa’s future. The approach the project is adopting is innovative, creative and collaborative. It will resonate in your hearts and minds and motivate you to act.
There are three pillars to Watu Afrika : The Diaspora Bank / Innovation Hub, Social Movement and a database to map all the resources on our continent.
Ian Bentley, the creator of the concept of the Diaspora Bank, states: “The purpose of the Diaspora Bank is to kindle the innovative spirit and unleash the suppressed creative energy required to launch the ‘New’ Africa. To enable entrepreneurial activity to happen across the continent, free from the intervention of extraneous global influences (such as crippling currency fluctuations); allow ‘Africans’ of every persuasion, from all parts of the world, to collaboratively provide an enabling environment for the ‘New’ Africa.The Diaspora Bank will fund Innovative business ventures that can change the face of Africa. Our aim is to re-position and re-brand the New Africa as the ‘CONTINENT OF HOPE’. In Africa ideas or opportunities abound, but up till now we have been singularly unsuccessful in realising them”. There are over 60 million Africans living in the Diaspora they are our potential investors. This is not a micro financing initiative. Our value proposition will be unique and attractive to investors and entrepreneurs.
The purpose of the social movement is four-fold: to raise Africa to dignity and prosperity; challenge out of date societal norms on our continent; influence social trends and empower African youth and women by providing access to resources for economic and social development (through the Diaspora Bank and Innovation Hub). We aim to use social networks as a platform to start our social movement, create awareness, and awaken the social conscience of Africa’s youth. We aim to achieve these goals through forming collaborative networks and partnerships with existing youth forums and organisations and embarking on social and business development projects. Our initial focus will be students studying in academic institutions on our continent.
The Database to map Africa’s resources will be a repository of all resources and information for potential investors and entrepreneurs in Africa. This will include detailed information about the availability of land, labour, political climate in the country, population statistics, and health, laws of the country, infrastructure and any valuable statistic about our continent that will assist in making valuable economic and social decisions. Watu Afika is looking to collaborate with academic institutions to assist in maintaining the database and ensure that the information is accurate and current. One of the major challenges to economic development in Africa is attracting investment to our continent. Many attribute this to the lack of information necessary to make sound investment decisions. For many potential investors, Africa remains the “Dark Continent”. Through this Database, we aim to address this problem of availability of vital information.
This is an invitation to the youth of our continent and academic institutions to join us in our efforts to create a true African renaissance. Contribute your talents; ideas; creativity and energy to this initiative. We need your drive and enthusiasm to propel this project to extraordinary heights that will benefit all Africans.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead)
Contact Watu Afrika : WatuAfrica@gmail.com