The present is fashioned based on the imagined future.
Young people are future guardians and inheritors of the imminent world.
The making of the future world and the preparation of young people to assume their future roles as leaders will always be a continual endeavour.
This dialectical relationship between the sculpting of future leaders and the dynamic conditions within which it is fashioned, is testimony to the truth that we live in changing times.
Africa’s Agenda 2063 states “Africa’s young people are the primary vehicle for realising the demographic dividend and the principal engine for fostering development at all levels”.
Accordingly, the African Union declared the theme for 2017 as “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in Youth”.
The African Youth Charter also declares “Africa’s greatest resource is its youthful population and that through their active and full participation, Africans can surmount the difficulties that lie ahead [and recognises that the] … youth are partners, assets and a prerequisite for sustainable development and for the peace and prosperity of Africa with a unique contribution to make to the present and to future development”.
In support of the idea of taking advantage of the demographic dividend, Ashford posits “Africa’s young people will be the driving force behind economic prosperity in future decades, but only if policies and programmes are in place to enhance their opportunities”.
The above overview of the policy outlook of the continent with respect to the youth presents a strategic opportunity to engage in high-level advocacy, policy dialogue and decision-making on key issues that affect young people.
The necessity to re-imagine continental and national development through, among others, locating Africa’s young people at the centre, has to take into consideration factors that include the following:
● The world today is characterised by rapid changes mainly driven by technology and rapid innovations;
● The social distance between institutions and the populace has become wide, with negative consequences that derail and hamstring development;
● Deepening of a social fibre mainly characterised by crass materialism, erosion of the values of human solidarity, narrow nationalism, and an emergence of a value system that is an affront to the tenets and principles bequeathed to the present generation by the founding fathers and mothers of our country and continent.
Given the foregoing, Nelson Mandela University, as part of the centenary celebrations of our namesake, Tata Mandela, decided to create a reflective and imaginative platform with a particular focus on youth development and inclusion in the form of an Annual Youth Convention to:
● Promote generational and intergenerational dialogue on youth development;
● Create a knowledge based on youth development and platforms for its diffusion, including policy briefs targeting all sectors of society;
● Cultivate agency among the youth for their development.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the university will host the second session of the convention.
The convention will principally reflect on progress made to mainstream youth development over the last 25 years of democracy and launch a process of fashioning youth development scenarios for the next 25 years. The scenarios will be mainly about how to make the next 25 years youth-centric and youth-driven towards the ideal of youth inclusion.
This perspective is inspired by the fundamental ends of democracy as espoused by Ali Mazrui, which are: accountable governors; actively participating citizens; open society and transparent economy and social solidarity.
The convention is a generative space meant to bring about perspectives and propose strategies to accelerate youth inclusion.
The second youth convention should give a serious treatment on the paradigm(s) the existing youth development policy is predicated on and seeking to privilege. The need to unearth the paradigm(s) is fundamental, as social progress is a product of ideas and knowledge, especially in a knowledge society.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution, for example, is a product of knowledge, technology and innovation. This evident power of knowledge should inspire our youth to ceaselessly search for knowledge that leads to collective progress.
The youth convention is the only dedicated discursive space that brings together young people, activists, practitioners and intellectuals on youth inclusion.
The 2019 session is expected to propagate a youth development agenda that is unencumbered by electoral cycles of government but buttressed on proven development theories linked to the collective aspirational ends of the youth.
Most importantly, we hope that the session will offer new paradigms to accelerate youth inclusion.
● Luthando Jack, Nelson Mandela University Dean of Students