On 21st and 22nd July 2014, The Mandela
Institute for Development Studies (MINDS) convened the 2nd annual
youth dialogue on elections and governance. The dialogues brought together 103
participants from 38 African countries. Its aim was to bring together young
Africans to interrogate current levels of youth involvement in electoral and
governance processes. The dialogues acted as a platform for confrontation of
challenges of political apathy, leadership and accountability. It also served
as a mind challenging ground on the role of youths as key drivers of change in
The dialogue commenced with a welcome note from Dr. Nkosana
Moyo (Founder of MINDS) who emphasized on the need for young people to identify
interest groups and understand the common aspects that would bring them
together. He went ahead to say that the
question on why people need to vote is important. His major concern on Africa’s
reluctance was clear when he said that if someone doesn't want to be criticized
then he should not do anything.
President Kagame, whose country had hosted the dialogue, seemed
to capture every participant’s attention. He pointed out hard facts and honest
opinions which challenged most of the participants. He reiterated that such kinds
of dialogues have been there before and people seem to know what they want. He
added that the feeling of hope and energy is often felt during dialogues but
when people go back to their countries, very little action happens on the
ground. He emphasized on the need for less talks and more actions.
The issue of blame games and dishonest conversations was pointed out as major draw backs to Africa’s development. President Kagame said,
“The blame goes around the room but we need responsibility to go round too to
make progress”. From his experience as a president of a country which underwent
genocide 20 years ago, Kagame pointed out on the need for unity as Africans. He
told the participants that when people work together, they will need each other
more and most important learn from each other. His thoughts on self believe and provisions of conducive
environment were rested on individual responsibility and communities
respectively. Citing from the mandatory monthly community service that every
Rwandese has to undertake, it was clear that Rwanda has learnt aspects of peace
and reconciliation from within. This is a perfect example to other African
countries on the need to look for solutions within.
The issue of Africa’s natural resources was not left behind.
Kagame attributed the battle of East and West over Africa’s resources to
laziness. He said that Africans are failing to utilize their natural resources.
He was clear that he wouldn't want anyone to be kind to him in his failure and
so should be to other African heads of states.
As a summary of the Kagame’s session, Dr. Nkosana insisted
that credibility creates space and young Africans need to uphold values that
would seek to avoid corruption in their respective countries. As a parting
shot, Kagame advised young Africans to take up opportunities and run around
with them for the good of African people.
The rest of the sessions were based on advocacy, sharing
experiences and figuring out what had worked and what had not worked in various
African countries on issues of elections and governance. One speaker said that young Africans need to revise the
advocacy formula. It emerged that revolution and street demonstrations may not
be an end in themselves rather things like forming strong political parties may
be helpful in initiating change guided by convergence of interests which Dr. Nkosana
kept on insisting.
Activists who have done protests in Kenya and Egypt said that
the impact of their work has been short lived and a different and more of
intellectual approach would be necessary for realization of the African dream.The participants were urged to let passion drive their work
and shunning away from corruption would be an option second to none. Dr.
Nkosana pointed out that Africa’s issues need to be taken as a job description
whereby youths need to recruit the right person for the job. Voting was singled
out as the only tool that youths can initiate sustainable change in their
The aspects of transparency continued to dominate the
discussions with one professor saying that if someone doesn't have
credibility, it’s very hard for him to command respect. Another person
said that governance is a social contract; one that is agreed between the society
and the person in-charge of a particular public job. Therefore any public servant
is accountable to the society that bestowed trust in him.
was agreed that we must accept democracy only if it’s in the context of law.
People need to fight for what is legally right. The comparison on the level of
democracy between well established systems like UK and growing democratic
systems like Nigeria prompted interesting conversations. One person said that
in Nigeria elections are not won on the basis of manifesto, he went ahead to
say that if a candidate fails to distribute money; he would not win the
The contribution of indigenous cultures in governance was
discussed at large; the fact that Africans don’t appreciate their own cultures
was cited as a basis for little or no ownership for Africa’s problems. One
presenter from Ethiopia said that Africa’s cultural systems are important in
guiding governance system development; she added that African countries should
not look for other systems before exhausting what they have.
The need for utilizing social media as a tool for governance
was well explained by a participant from Zimbabwe. He gave an example of how #263Chat
on twitter has brought major changes in his country. A sure way of having
honest conversations, he said.
Most of the panel discussions experiences brought out the
need for passion, confidence, self believe and volunteerism for sustainable
development in Africa. Lastly the participants were left with the challenge of
finding why Africa fails. Does the solution lie on building the system right or
building the right system?
Report by: Stephen Machua