Copy of #TheSafeSpaceColumn published in the Times of Swaziland on the 18th of August 2016:
Some young people in today’s Africa have the opportunities that our forefathers couldn’t even dream of! In today’s Africa, it is uncommon to see a young person commending huge audiences and leading some of the continent’s most prestigious institutions. When I see or read about such young people, my heart explodes with joy and pride to see fellow youth excelling in ways that were practically unthinkable just 20 years ago!
In all this joy and excitement at the achievements of Africa’s current crop of young people, I also have deep fears and concerns. My fears and concerns stem from certain rhetoric, behaviors and attitudes that some of our youth leaders display. In Africa, most of our Heads of State are often criticized for extravagant, unconstitutional, selfish and at times bizarre forms of leadership. It is quite ironic that the biggest critics of our Heads of State (the youth) are the same individuals who begin to display the same traits when they receive an inch of power. This phenomenon fascinates me in as many ways as it concerns me. Young people are the first and loudest to advocate for ‘abuse of power’ but when we find ourselves in decision making positions, we sometimes morph into replicas of the very same people we opposed. Arghh!
At this rate, we are bound to be no different (or perhaps even worse) than the leaders that we so passionately denounce. I feel as young people, we need to take a step back and figure out why we really pursue leadership positions. Is it the burning desire that we have to be in control? Is it the quest for financial remuneration at all cost? Is it the ability to travel the world for conferences and vacation in Doha? These are questions that need answers and if these answers point to ‘yes’ then please do us all a favor and let others take the lead. In as much as I have pointed out the ills in Africa’s youth leadership, we also have some inspirational young people that genuinely put others before themselves. From what I have seen, these individuals are a minority but I can only hope that they are inspiring others in the art of selfless dedication to a cause. These are the young people that need all our attention, support and resources.
Africa is in serious need of transformation in the leadership sector and we cannot waste time on a group that says all the right things in the beginning of their careers but then become shadows of their former selves when it is time to act. In the words of Lailah Akita, ‘A leader has a great duty. You have to perform beyond the expectations of the people’.