16 Oct 2014


By Judyannet Muchiri 
Editor, INSPIRE.

African Nations have been numbed into inaction by the notion of ‘help’ or the more common term ‘aid’.  Without refuting the positive impact officially assisted development has had in Africa and in the South Asia region we agree that aid has had its fair share of negative effects. African thinkers and other global leaders of thought have attacked this concept; a good example is Dambisa Moyo in her book ‘Dead Aid’. The question whether or not Africa still needs aid is a question that continues to inform many discussions in different forums.

At this crucial moment in history where we are looking at the year 2015, a year which has been used by the UN and other stakeholders to mark the journey to development in the form of MDGs we need to rethink development. This line of thought has been accounted for in the Post-2015 Development Agenda. As the policy makers and various governments congregate in various sittings in and out of Africa to push for more action towards realization of what is now known as SDGs, focus must also be on the African people themselves, specifically, the youth.

The youth have inherited- or are in the process of inheriting- social, economic, cultural, and political attitudes of their forefathers. With no doubt they have also inherited the negative attitudes. The young have unfortunately learnt to expect help, and when they can’t get it to beg for it. I need not go into the forms that this mentality has taken over the years, Google images does that superbly. Just key in Africa and the images that pop up are a manifestation of this mentality. This is a mentality that is not only detrimental to households but also to the country at large. It means that the African youth haven’t achieved a substantial level of productivity that can make a difference in the scale of development. Why?

Actually the question is what. What need be done? The Aid-mentality must be uprooted from every young African. The youth must stop expecting help. They must stop looking out for help and the worst form of it, they must stop begging for it. The African youth must start asking themselves what they can do. The ever increasing institutions of higher learning in Africa continue to churn graduates year after year who hit the world with a strong wave of expectation. If the government is to start reaping from the investments injected into the education sector in terms of productivity of the graduates which then turns into growth in the economy then this aid-mentality must be done with.

Instead of seeking for help, the African youth should step up; identify a need in the community, a gap, a challenge. That will be his niche. He will then match this need with the skills acquired from the university, voluntary work, or internship posts. At this confluence point, that is where innovation is born. An innovation that will change the young person because a mind that is stretched by an idea can never be the same and the community because a need will have been met; the children don’t have to read under trees anymore for instance. This can’t be achieved by a person who is sitting around waiting for help from somebody else. Rather by a young person who has it in himself to do something instead of waiting for somebody else.

Further, this young person must seek to build partnerships with other young people or organizations that are working in his area of interest. A young person confident of himself, passionate about making change in his community, and with a strong conviction will have the nerves to approach any organization or individual and seek to cooperate with them in implementing an idea in the community. Compare this with a young person fresh from the university, armed with a degree and a little spring that comes with graduation, one who goes out into the world to seek for a job, who seeks to use other people to get where he wants to without considering what he can do. This is what makes all the difference. It is what will greatly shape the next phase of development in Africa and thus must be given great importance. 

This therefore is a gentle nudge to the youth and the policy makers. The youth to step up, stop expecting help and start focusing on the challenges they can address in the community and how they can do that. And the policy makers, which here is a spectrum of all the people and organizations involved in policy formulation towards sustainable development. There’s a need to focus on human development, to focus on the people themselves, especially the majority young people in Africa.  Should this be included in such efforts like the Post-2015 Development Agenda then we can begin to see a take-off towards a more sustainable Africa which is something that is long overdue.

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