Accra hosts Africa's hope - her youth
The 2011 International Youth Day (12 August 2011), marked the end of the UN's International Year of Youth: Dialogue and Mutual Understanding. Little did the UN realise that the youth would have such a profound effect on world events in that year (August 2010 to August 2011).
The so-called Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Bahrain were started largely by youth using social media to organise some of the largest political shifts in those countries over the last few decades. Social media has given a voice to these young revolutionaries - an often ignored segment of society. This youth activism has seen regime changes in two countries and a civil war in Libya.
Europe has also witnessed the youth's desire to be heard. Riots in London and other English cities caught authorities off-guard, releasing an outpouring of frustration and a shout for a better future. Unfortunately, some of the sensible voices in this particular uprising have been crowded out by pure criminality.
But the youth's ability to effect change is not limited to scenes of disorderly mobs, teargas and stonethrowing. Accra, Ghana hosted the continent's youth at the 3-day African Youth Economic Forum from 11 to 13 August 2011. The forum was aimed at addressing Africa's socio-economic challenges and was the themed: “Dialogue and Mutual Understanding, Our Year, Our Voice.” In addition to the Ghanaian hosts, the forum drew representatives from Senegal, Cote D'ivoire, Nigeria, Liberia, Kenya, as well as the United States of America.
Job creation was high on the Forum's agenda, so were education, entrepreneurship and social action. The call to the youth to step up to the plate was loud and clear, and African youth are answering this call with passion and vigor.
11 year old Andre Adansi-Bonnah is a case in point. The young man from Accra has been touched by the plight of Somali famine victims, particularly the children. Estimates are that 29,000 children have died in the last three months. Andre has turned his compassion into action by launching the Save Somali Children from Hunger campaign. He wants to raise about US$13 million and has started by walking the streets of Accra, collecting donations from office workers in the Ghanaian capital. Having consulted with UNICEF and the UN's World Food Program, his efforts began on 1 August and he has already collected $6,500 in pledges.
In the south of the continent, Refilwe Mothawanazi is lobbying her mayor to build libraries in her community to provide school children with safe places to study. Supported by South Africa's youngest billionaire, Mark Shuttleworth, the HIP2B2 initiative has rallied behind Refilwe, a 16 year old teenager from the North West province of South Africa. Refilwe highlights that some of her fellow students have to walk up to an hour to the nearest library in neighbouring Potchefstroom. Refilwe's energy and passion has won her the position of HIP2B2 ambassador for her role in inspiring and empowering other young learners to focus and excel in maths and science.
The shouts of a voiceless youth have reverberated all over the planet this last International Year of Youth. When the 2012 International Youth Day rolls by a year from now, I for one will be listening out for the likes of Andre and Refilwe – rising voices of hope, passion and a call for change from Africa's youth.