“The worst illiterate is the political illiterate, he doesn’t hear, doesn’t speak, nor participates in the political events. He doesn’t know the cost of life, the price of the bean, of the fish, of the flour, of the rent, of the shoes and of the medicine, all depends on political decisions. The political illiterate is so stupid that he is proud and swells his chest saying that he hates politics. The imbecile doesn’t know that, from his political ignorance is born the prostitute, the abandoned child, and the worst thieves of all, the bad politician, corrupted and flunky of the national and multinational companies.” That was not from me, it is the words of German Marxist poet, playwright, and theatre director, Bertolt Brecht and it serves a fundamental framework of my musing on the role of the digitally connected youth and the future of governance in Africa.
It is no longer news that the African continent is home to the world’s largest population of people under forty. While so much has been said about Africa being the final frontier, we need to begin to deliver verifiable results in a massive way that tallies with our rosy statistics. Truth be told, there are a lot of people already doing great things across industries, sectors and business segments. As I watched the Future Awards ceremony yesterday, I could not but agree that several people are pushing ideas and businesses industries causing a revolution influenced by social media, digital and mobile technology. However, if we do not actively engage ourselves in the business of politics, by actively participating, supporting the great youths making a difference and getting involved, the potential of Africa’s growth might remain stagnant in the hands of the people whose relevance is tied to the status quo. A simple example illustrates this; a single governor who understands his onions can conclude the projects of over hundred NGOs in a single term four years. As a build up to the Social Media Week Lagos coming up next year, I had the opportunity to host a #tweetchat community gist with Omojuwa on the role of youth and good governance in Africa and the importance of the strategic positioning of Africa’s youths was the focus.
Key ideas and thoughts were highlighted and in case you missed it, here are the thoughts, coalesced.
From Problems to opportunities
At some point is used to be fashionable to complain about our problems and challenges. It used to be about agitating about our helpless in the face of irresponsible and unaccountable leadership. However social, mobile and digital technology is allowing the connected youth access to the tools that will ensure the problems become opportunities. With the huge information gap between elected leaders and the governed, lots of startups and initiatives have risen to fill the gap and to empower the average youth with information required to turn ignorant youths into informed citizens. Process and logistics problems across transportation, health, telecommunications, access to market and products have created a slew of startups braving up the challenges into bankable business ideas and opportunities.
From Tools to Weapons
With Nigerian youths accounting for up to a massive sixty percent of Nigerian population, politicians still know how youths end up as tools. However, an increasing number of youths are demanding accountability & responsibility using digital media as leverage. Young people are making real change happen and it is not just tweeting and commenting on social media.
We are gradually moving away from being tools into making themselves champions and advocates for change. Though a number of them lost elections to the old guards in the run-off to the electoral primaries of the political parties, a lot of commendation is to be given to the youths squaring up in the political space. In and out of politics, young people are creating identities of their own and not just reflected value.
Massively arm others with Education
Damilola Jolayemi @HereisDami, asked an important question; “the role of youths in governance;” how do we make the youths understand this very important role? Omojuwa provided an answer every youth should begin to think of. There are two ways, every youth needs to be pushed to understand through their challenges or they get inspired by observing others making a difference in spite of the people.
There are people who complain about Africa’s problems and do nothing and there are others who see these problems and are amazed at the opportunity provided to us. It is interesting that Africa’s problems are the reason there is a massive influx of foreigners and businesses. Kathleen Ndongmo @KathleenNdongmo opined that with Africa having the youngest population in the world accounting for about sixty-five percent of our total population below thirty-five years; this is either be a risk or an asset. Young and informed youths must therefore collaborate and inform others. The disadvantaged youth is a weapon in the hands of the oppressor, they therefore need to be educated and empowered.
Start from where you are
How can today’s connected youth make their voices and tweets count in the real business of governance? Begin to work on yourself and deliver yourself so as not to be a victim of the system. Participate and not abdicate your responsibilities during elections. The trouble of searching for your name and queuing up is a small price to pay for good governance. Those who vote in bad people are the smart people who do not vote. As Kenya’s Boniface Mwangi tweeted yesterday; “If you keep voting for idiots you will keep getting the results of monkeys”, it is important that trusted representatives get on the table of governance.
In spite of the obvious challenges, begin to think of and design solutions profitably; you may create something strong enough to create a brighter future for yourself and others. As one of Leonardo da Vinci’s quotes posit; “I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”