African youth ready to rise

2011-09-10 15:51

“Africa is not short of a generation of leaders who will take us from where we are to where we need to be.”

These words by Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh capture the spirit of the 160 young African leaders at this year’s One Young World (OYW) Africa Rise session.

And youth leaders attending the summit in Zurich say the events in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya have readied and inspired them to commit their lives to the struggle that will one day see Africa rise.

“We are here willing to die for our countries. We demand democracy and freedom” says Egyptian delegate Rania Elessawi.

The summit saw 1200 youth leaders from around the world debate global issues with business leaders, global corporations and international activists.

After the Olympics it is the second largest meeting of young people globally.

This year OYW Africa director, Catherine Peter, worked particularly hard to ensure that there was an increase in the number of African delegates from 39 to 160 and an increase in the number of African countries represented from 18 to 47.

“We have to do this just to disprove the argument that Africans can’t do it for themselves is wrong” she explains.

When Somali model, human rights activist and OYW counsellor Waris Dirie was 13 she knew the only way to live her dreams was to flee from an arranged marriage to an older man.

Dirie has seen first-hand how little or no education and tribal conflicts have held back not
only her country but the continent at large. She now looks to the young people she counsels at the summit to help take Africa forward.

“Our leaders are a bunch of crooks, they lead no one but themselves,” says Dirie. “The leaders of tomorrow are here (at OYW). We need to figure this out together and Africa will rise.”

In coming up with solutions, delegates called on leaders to listen to young voices, introduce an education system that teaches students about the problems in Africa and how to solve them, to cultivate a culture of concern and initiative and to negotiate wisely as Africa gains powerful trade partners.

“China is becoming a major trading partner for Africa. We therefore have an opportunity to change the way Africa does business with the world by arguing for favourable trade conditions and agreements,” says Mpofu-Walsh, the OYW South African ambassador.

Johannesburg will host the next summit in 2013. 

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