Africa today stands at the cross-roads – a continent so rich and yet so poor. For centuries, the economies of African countries have been made dependent on advanced economies, and despite the enormous amount of natural resources in Africa, over 500 million citizens continue to live in poverty. Over 650 million have no access to clean energy, and 600,000 die every year from household generated pollution from fuel woods.
Africa, with its population of about 1.2 billion people is rich in renewable and non-renewable natural resources, but it is held that the continent doesn’t benefit from its resources. These resources are mined and exported in their raw form. Africa produces more than 60 metal and mineral products and is a major producer of several of the world’s most important minerals and metals.
Some of the minerals mined out of Africa include gold, diamond, PGE’s, silver, iron, uranium, bauxite, manganese, chromium, nickel, bauxite, cobalt and copper. Platinum, coal, and phosphates are also mined on the continent. Africa also has rich forests, marine and aquatic resources that have been exploited for years, but too little of the revenue trickles down to Africa.
It is also known that Africa loses some $50 billion every year to illicit financial flows.
While discussions are going on to explain the situation, some have argued that the problem is leadership. The view, however, is not conclusive, but leadership is a key ingredient in any development effort, making the training of Africa’s youth and empowering them with leadership skills a non-negotiable fact in the quest to reduce poverty and make Africa benefit from its vast resources – both human and natural. Someone or a group must take the wheel and drive Africa out of the very unacceptable conditions. Despite the agreed fact that post-colonial Africa has come a long way, the continent could be better.
Africa is the only continent with a significantly growing youth population. Projections suggest that in less than three generations, 41 per cent of the world’s youth will be African. By 2050, Africa’s youth will constitute over a quarter of the world’s labour force. By the end of the century, the continent will have the lowest dependency ratio in the world.
As at 2012, 40 million of the youth in Africa is said to make up 60 per cent of the continent’s unemployed, and the number of youth in Africa will double by 2045, according to the African Economic Outlook 2012.
The report warned that youth unemployment figures will increase unless Africa moves swiftly to make youth employment a priority, turning its human capital into economic opportunity.
“On the other hand, youths can present a significant threat to social cohesion and political stability if they do not secure decent living conditions,” it adds.
The report indicated that between the year 2000 and 2008, “despite world-topping economic growth rates, and a better educated youth, Africa created only 16 million jobs for young people aged between 15 and 24.”
Bill Gates, the philanthropist and entrepreneur, said in South Africa in July at the 2016 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture at the University of Pretoria (Mamelodi campus) that Africa’s future rests in the hands of its youth and efforts must be made to ensure they thrive. He said Africa was demographically the world’s youngest continent and in the next 35 years, it is estimated that two billion babies would be born in Africa and by 2050, 40 per cent of the world’s children would live in Africa hence the belief that Africa’s youth “can be the source of a special dynamism.”
It is therefore, in the spirit of training Africa’s next generation of leaders – the youth, that the West African Civil Society Institute (WACSI) is bringing together 18 young people from 11 countries – Ghana, Nigeria, The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Niger, Ivory Coast, Togo, Benin and Senegal for a two-week residential programme for middle career young West African civil society practitioners under its Civil Society Leadership Institute (CSLI). The training will be held in Accra from May 8 to 19, 2017.
According to WACSI, the programme seeks to facilitate transformational leadership through an approach that focuses on; individual development; institutional strengthening, and societal transformation.
For WACSI, grooming and equipping that next generation of leaders is a priority, and the organization is seeking to attain the goal with the CSLI programme which has two components— training and mentoring. Both are designed to facilitate transformational leadership through an approach that focuses on: individual development – using a ‘living’ model approach, which encourages participants to evaluate their strengths, weaknesses, and life goals, personal abilities and make necessary adjustments to identify and fully utilise their potential.
The component of institutional strengthening is designed to develop the capacity of individuals to build and sustain robust operational structures, systems and knowledge management processes within institutions that align with the organisations’ mandate and facilitate its growth.
Through the societal transformation component, the capacity of participants is strengthened to enable them to conceptualise and operationalise significant change initiatives that improve the quality of life of citizens and their communities.
The programme, WACSI says, is designed to strengthen indigenous human capital within the civil society sector whilst promoting ownership.
The participants will be taken through modules that respond to skills and competencies in leading self, leading others and leading an organisation.
“The content is built on theoretical and practice-based knowledge that equips participants to be hyper-sensitive to factors that stimulate development of self and foster change within their organisations and the environments within which they operate,” according to WACSI.
This training programme has the potential to be a catalyst for building the required skills for some of Africa’s dynamic and visionary youth who could possibly take the baton and lead Africa into a new era where the fight would lead to significant reduction of poverty and break a new dawn of hope for the continent’s over 500 million poor.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
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