UP Centre for Human Rights webinar engages young Africans on politics and development

The University of Pretoria’s (UP) Centre for Human Rights hosted by the Democracy and Civic engagement Unit in partnership with the Democracy Development Program (DDP), under the umbrella of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) CSO Forum, recently hosted a dialogue to engage young Africans on matters related to Africa’s politics and development and the workings of the PAP.

The virtual chat – which was moderated by Sphamandla Brian Mhlongo, DDP Senior Programmes Officer – featured a panel that was made up of Aderonke Ige, Nigerian human rights lawyer and activist; Perminus Moinogu, researcher; Kelebogile Tikatso Sephuthi, entrepreneurial leadership coach; and Nqubeko Maseko, a BA Law and History graduate from UP.

In her opening remarks, Bonolo Makgale, programme manager of the Democracy and Civic Engagement Unit, noted that statistics for 2019 show that 60% of Africa’s population is under the age of 25, and said this was a sure indication that young people are both the future and present in Africa. The PAP, as an important organ of the African Union, would therefore be poorer if it does not engage the 60%, she added. Makgale further noted that it is important, now more than ever, to have young people from across the continent talking to each and collectively forming a Pan-African voice that would find expression in formalised institutions like the PAP to influence policy and support the PAP’s mandate.

Delivering her keynote address, Naledi Chirwa, a member of the National Assembly of South Africa from the Economic Freedom Fighters, said Africans must understand that borders are not beneficial to Africans. Colonialism divided Africans, it took away the means of existing and co-existing as Africans, she said.

“That is why we find ourselves in this predicament of applying for documents for over a period of six months or more so as to engage with fellow Africans. As Africans we are bombarded by the ego of white supremacist culture that exaggerated itself and we have inherited it. We are inheriting a Africa that is debilitated, and it is catastrophic, because of colonialism,” said Chirwa.

The PAP has become an important part of the African Union (AU) institutional landscape, aimed at strengthening Africa’s governance and democracy. The Parliament works to promote popular participation and representation in the continent’s decision-making.

Abdulayo Ndaw, committee clerk of the PAP Youth Caucus, says the future will soon be in the hands of the young. However, African youths continue to face difficult challenges with regards to health, education, employment.

“Recently we are seeing young people in West Africa relocating to Europe for employment and economic freedom, as the PAP Youth Caucus we try to tackle issues related to young people and submit them to Parliament with hopes that there will be change. Over six years the committee has visited a [number of] African countries in order to understand challenges faced by young Africans.”

“If we do not realise the call to love and embrace ourselves as Africans we cannot move forward. The reality is that we have so many systems built to suppress and oppress us. However, if we can speak in one voice, we can achieve a lot. Young people in government positions and policy-making processes are missing. Power is still with the older generation,” noted human rights lawyer Ige.

Moinogu said governments across the African continent must create inclusive processes and pointed out that “culture and politics are used to silence the youth”.

Broadening the dialogue further, Makgale, programme manager of the Democracy and Civic Engagement Unit, posed several pertinent questions in the dialogue regarding inclusivity: “How many legitimate platforms and structures led by young people are fully recognised by states and policy makers as important stakeholders in policy formation processes? How do the politics of young people find expression through formal mechanisms of engagement with the state?”

Entrepreneurial life coach Sephuti said there were challenges around intergenerational leadership on the African continent.

“We are seeing the older generation holding powerful positions, and not just in government, but in spaces of business corporations. A corrective measure has taken place where some corporates have identified the need for a youth perspective on company-wide issues through ‘millennial boards’. A challenge to the Pan-African Parliament would be to incorporate similar measures, such as youth quotas in senior strategic positions or millennial advisory boards.”

Sephuti further noted that “we can’t speak about the trade of goods and services without speaking about people. People make trading across the continent possible and the African Continental Free Trade Area is an important flagship to follow closely under Agenda 2063”.