OPINION: Africa Day should reinforce our pact with society
JOHANNESBURG - Most of us grew up knowing what the basic societal norms are and we adopted them and conformed wherever possible. For instance, we should get educated, find a job, maybe start a family and support our extended family members, when necessary.
In the back of our minds, access to water, healthcare, electricity, good education curricula, and other basic services should be a given, diligently provided by our governments.
Then reality bites. We end up being unemployed, having little or no access to rudimentary amenities and, at most times, we cannot even put food on our family tables.
Astonishingly, of the nearly 450 million young Africans, a third of these are jobless and not for want of trying – and their future still looks bleak. A whopping 80 percent of Africa’s workforce trades or works in the informal sector – caused by a lack of action and willingness to transform our society, which makes us complicit in the structural inequalities that exist.
We must encourage our continental youth to believe that they can work better together and they must sing this song from their rooftops, loud and proud, in order to take control of their futures – and to ensure that the societal ideals they grow up believing in and aspiring to, are the ones that become a reality.
According to civil society future organisations, it is imperative that we create a pact that can be applied at every level of society. Our focus should be on Power, Accountability, Connection and Trust.
This Africa Day presents the perfect opportunity to start reinforcing our pact with society, with these four norms:
• Power: How are our leaders exerting the power bestowed upon them - are they using it to benefit their citizens? All of us exert some form of power – as politicians, church leaders, civil societies, business magnates and even family members. But are we affording any (or enough) of this power to better our respective societies?
• Accountability: During our life’s journey, we’ll all be accountable to someone or something. Such as how we raise our children, how we engage and support our communities, or how we deliver on expectations in our work environments. We’re always liable every day and if we embrace a sense of selflessness in this regard during Africa Day, I believe that Africa will begin being a better and stronger place.
• Connection: We are all interconnected. In just a few months, the current pandemic spread across the globe like a wildfire and laid bare the drastic and unimaginable inequality that exists in many parts of our precious planet, especially in South Africa. Surely we can all connect as one for the common good of all?
• Trust: Trust is all about truth, which should be universal, yet I assume relativists will argue that there is no absolute or objective truth and that it is relative and subjective. The fact is that there is one universal truth and everything is not just relative. For example, the truth that someone studied medicine and has the qualification to attend to a sick person is more capable than a person that studied engineering. We have to build an Africa that is true to itself. Leaders that can boldly tell other leaders where they have gone wrong – using simple human observation and inherent aptitude – are prized possessions amidst our current climate of uncertainty, frustration and sense of “nowhereness”. We have to build trust amongst each other, each region and each continent.
The pandemic has crushed and broken what many citizens have tirelessly built over the past few years, directly impacting Africa’s most vulnerable.
Now is the time to walk side-by-side to ensure we all emerge stronger in order to build better. We all want an Africa we can be proud of for generations to come, and this is the new Africa we should start celebrating today.
An Africa where we find and feel our place in society with pride. In this light, the potential of our youth must be leveraged to make sure our continent becomes a true king amongst our continental counterparts.
As we celebrate the 57th anniversary of the African Union, this responsibility lies solely in the powerful hands of leaders. Power that must be wielded with understanding, commitment, certainty, clarity and true benevolence. Citizens must also lead and play its part.
Covid-19 offers a hidden, yet powerful opportunity for all world leaders to introspect, deep-dive and rework many of their broken pacts with society.
Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa; 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.