Youth must take their place in leadership

FILE IMAGE: President Ramaphosa is flanked by the first 100 beneficiaries of the Youth Employment Service (YES).
FILE IMAGE: President Ramaphosa is flanked by the first 100 beneficiaries of the Youth Employment Service (YES).
Image: Nomahlubi Jordaan

Our elders will soon be on the campaign trail, seeking re-election to the highest legislative platform in the land. And while it is noble that they still desire to and are able to serve, do we need them to?

In their speeches in months prior, they have waxed lyrical about the 4th Industrial Revolution, much like they did in the previous election about economic transformation, but do they understand what the 4th Industrial Revolution is and what it means - considering that they still struggle with taking full advantage of their smartphones?

This is a season of elections as many African nations have taken to the polls since last year. Zimbabwe has led the pack, with Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo following suit.

Botswana, SA and Algeria will also take to the polls and battle with the leadership question about who is best suited to lead us into this revolution. Africa is a young continent, with the majority of its inhabitants being under 25 years. Despite this fact, elections tout old men and women as the Messiahs of young people.

The question has never been if young people are capable to lead. We are.

Yet, at the face of paternalism that exists in political spaces, we are only entrusted with coming up with the great ideas that speak to our peers and never the platform to sit at the table to lead.

The continent has never lacked examples of young leaders - Thomas Sankara, Nelson Mandela and Steve Biko were young when they took to the leadership table. Their achievements as young leaders are templates that are still followed today.

The decolonisation of education through the fallist movement is a youth-led initiative. The call for safety of women and children evidenced in the "total shutdown" is a young women's movement.

The 4th Industrial Revolution, elusive as it may seem, is a youth movement.

The Breaking Down Borders Africa Youth initiative calls for youth collaboration across the continent to solve their problems. Not only are young people capable and willing to lead, they have reshaped the nature of organising.

Movements are born out of and expanded using tools key to the 4th Industrial Revolution. They are started in 140 characters and proliferated in minutes.

The gains are there and can't be doubted.

These movements are reminiscent of the words of yet another young lion, Frantz Fanon, in his poignant mantra: "Every generation must, out of obscurity, find its mission and choose to fulfil it or betray it."

Over the past three years, the summit has been converging and engaging young African leaders on inter-country trade, social movement collaborations and cultural development.

This year the summit asserts that the only way young people can have a seat at the table is by reclaiming Africa and co-creating a future envisioned by youth.

The leadership table is to be reclaimed to ensure that questions of an inclusive economy are addressed, responsible leadership is nurtured, safe and literate societies are built and a tech- savvy populace is achieved.

That is our mission to fulfil.

I believe this year is opportune for young people to take their place amid these campaigns. The ballots deserve young faces.

These young people are there, we are here.

- Modjadji is founder of Breaking Down Borders Africa Youth Summit. The annual conference will be hosted in Gauteng in May

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