“As large parts of the world age, Africa grows younger by the day! The youthful sons of daughters and Africa are our incredible resource and are reaching out for a new future.” These are the inspiring words of Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, during the Global Entreprenuership Summit 2015. Africa’s youth is unarguably a great resource, the younger you reach into the youth. the grander their dreams for our continent. Are we however truly reaching out for a new better future, or merely dreaming of one?
Before ‘civilization’ brightened our dark continent, there was no such thing as a rich ruler whose subjects were poor, closest we had to taxes was tribute, we had no stark social castes; even the poorest man had a roof over his head and negative ethnicity was unheard of as even inter-tribe raids were a socioeconomic activity (not brewed hatred). Along came the colonialists armed with ‘divide and conquer’ and ‘carrot and stick’ tricks, luckily our forebears managed to reclaim their heritage before it was completely looted lest future Africa be a barren Sahara, no sub prefix.
When more than 10,000 South African high school students demonstrated against a mandatory Afrikaans syllabus in 1976, they unwittingly blew the cork off brewing tensions against the apartheid regime. Sanctions were imposed since the ‘civilized’ world could no longer ignore the situation, particularly when children were ready to die (and were killed in their hundreds) than abide further abuse of their rights. A complacent older generation was shamed into action and they found the strength to sacrifice a terrible existence for the possibility of a better future. Likewise, many other African countries won freedom from various forms of colonial subjugation through the relentless and selfless efforts by both the old and young.
Our freedom was dearly purchased with the blood, sweat and tears of our forbears and it is a mighty shame for such a precious gift to be capitulated to anyone, foreign or indigenous. Faster than people addicted to abusive partners, we found new colonizers and took comfort in the familiarity of their skin and ignored the hereditary bag of tricks. Whether through sham elections or vicious coups we trade one master for another in hope that eventually one will be better than their predecessor. Years of civil war, drought, famine, poverty, ignorance and disease haunting our otherwise beautiful continent stand as testament that our current system has failed us. We have failed ourselves and worse yet we have failed those who sacrificed much for our freedom.
The youth today possess way more power than our South African counterparts did in 1976 yet we sit by and do nothing most of the time. Most of us don’t vote, a good number of those who do vote along their bloodlines and not their minds. Ethnicity is our oppressors greatest trump card, they use it to play us against each other, just like the colonialists did. For educated minds like ours ethnicity an easy bug to squash, particularly since we have the ability to view all contentious and dividing issues with an objective and academic mind, unfortunately we are not willing. We stick to our ‘factory defaults’ including ethnic biases inherited from our parents.
Bigots are made not born, made of irrational prejudices and biases that were acquired in their lifetime. These biases are the strings by which the puppet masters control us and keep us on opposite sides. If Africa is ever going to change, we need to open our eyes and stop sleep walking through life, ignorant to the inherent danger our continued complacency traps us in.