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STEVEN ZWANE | SA’s renewal hinges on people to propel positive change

Stock photo.
Stock photo.
Image: 123rf

In the complex landscape of developing nations, the intertwined concepts of citizenship and agency shine as beacons of transformation. These ideas transcend rhetoric, representing the very essence of progress across the African continent.

Citizenship, the status of belonging to a nation, is a unique fusion of rights and responsibilities. It involves active participation in civic life, a profound understanding of the political landscape and a willingness to engage in shaping public affairs.

Complementing this is agency, the potent ability to act independently, make choices and wield influence within one’s environment. Agency embodies empowerment, the skill to steer one’s destiny and the capacity to enrich society. In this regard, citizenship and agency form the bedrock of thriving societies. Empowered citizens become active architects of policy, moulding governance to mirror their needs and aspirations.

This engagement breeds a sense of ownership and accountability, pushing back against the tides of marginalisation, corruption and social discord. Moreover, it safeguards human rights and fosters inclusivity, serving as the catalyst for economic growth and social progress.

SA, alongside the broader African continent, finds itself at a pivotal juncture. The historical challenges of governance, corruption and unequal resource distribution have left many African nations grappling with systemic issues. The indomitable spirit of Nelson Mandela, the global symbol of resilience and reconciliation, offers a blueprint for SA’s quest to cultivate enhanced citizenship and agency.

Understanding the challenges is pivotal to surmounting them. Enduring economic and social disparities remain formidable barriers to active citizenship and agency. Access to education, healthcare and economic opportunities remains uneven. Corruption corrodes trust in government institutions. And factionalism and political polarisation impede cooperative efforts, hindering the creation of a unified vision for the nation.

SA has witnessed vibrant youth-led movements, such as the #FeesMustFallcampaign, highlighting the transformative potential of the younger generation. American educator and author Stephen Covey’s Trim Tap principle reminds us that small, strategic changes can precipitate significant shifts. In the SA context, it underscores the importance of focusing on education, transparency and accountability, youth empowerment as well community-based initiatives.

SA’s youth represent an extraordinary Trim Tap. One pressing issue in SA is the perceived lack of ownership among key elements, both within the government and among the citizenry. This absence of ownership can perpetuate the impression of a faltering state. A shared commitment to a collective vision for a more inclusive, equitable, and prosperous SA is imperative. To build the capability for SA’s future competitiveness, we need a comprehensive framework that includes leadership development programmes emphasising visionary, ethical leadership and inclusive governance, reforms in education, with an emphasis on digital literacy and vocational skills, platforms for youth engagement in policymaking and community development.

We also need strengthening anti-corruption measures and promoting transparency across government and society. Leveraging this framework for future competitiveness and building citizenship and agency capability in SA calls for the active participation of civil society including academia ,organisations, the non-profit sector and the state.

Th edividends of this collective effort are substantial. SA stands at a pivotal moment in history. Overcoming key blockages, fostering ownership, and implementing a comprehensive framework can usher in a more engaged, empowered citizenry and a competitive, prosperous future for the nation.

It is a call-to-action . Together, we can forge a brighter tomorrow for SA and the African continent.

Zwane is a doctoral candidate, a Nelson Mandelascholar and managing executive: group corporate citizenship at Absa. He writes in his personal capacity.

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