By Cresencia Nyathi, Africa Unite Peer Educator
With lockdown in place, Africa Unite virtually joined other Africans around the continent and the world and commemorated Africa Day on the 25th of May which marked the historic establishment of the Organization of the African Unity in 1963 in form of a dialogue. The youth dialogue was aimed at unearthing what Africa Day mean to young people in South Africa, understanding the role the youth can play in creating African unity and identity at a political, economic and social level guided by the goals of Agenda 2063. Regionally, Africa Day 2020 was commemorated under the banner, “Silencing the guns: creating conducive conditions for Africa’s development to achieve the goal of a conflict-free Africa.”
Succinctly, the 25th May has been celebrated widely across the world particularly in Africa to signify Africa’s identity and unity. The African Union (AU) is a key driver of Agenda 2063 which is a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of our continent. Agenda 2063 seeks to realise the African people’s aspirations for sustainable growth and development across Africa. The dialogue unmasked certain knowledge gaps that exist amongst South African youth about Africa Day. The participants made acknowledgements that they never knew that there was Africa Day until they participated in Africa Unite’s programmes. The following responses were made by the participants during the dialogue which revealed the knowledge gaps about the Africa Day amongst young people in South Africa:
“I have come across young people in SA who do not know that there is Africa Day.”
“I didn’t know that there was Africa Day before I joined Africa Unite in 2017.”
“I heard about it last year (2019), I was shocked that I am so uninformed about this day.”
With the knowledge gap of the existence of the day, it poses serious challenges to young people to even commemorate the day. Moreover, some felt that the continuous scapegoating of foreign nationals and hatred amongst each other as Africans made it challenging to commemorate the day. As one of the participants explained that they do not celebrate the day because of the following reasons:
“Because there is lost meaning of the day through how we treat each other here in South Africa.”
“I have never celebrated the day; through social engagement, I have come to know the day and it’s not even recognized in South Africa dismissing its significance.”
From the above comments by the participants, the violent history of South Africa against African nationals has contributed to young people to take part in violence labelled as “xenophobic” which led participants that there was too much hate amongst the Africans. Therefore, such poses a threat to African unity. Moreover, some citizens believe that high levels of unemployment and adverse poverty lines could be attributed to continuous inflows of immigrants from neighbouring African countries and therefore using such excuses as a scapegoat.
Young people have a responsibility of standing what is morally right as one participant raised that youth can contribute and achieve Agenda 2063 by fighting bad practices to build a better Africa for everyone. The key lies in young people taking initiatives in building moral cultures that feed into the aims and objectives of Agenda 2063. On the other hand, young people need to know the African continent as one participant highlighted that:
“We need to be educated, familiarize ourselves with African history and become African ambassadors…”
“…young people must be taught the notion of Ubuntu and practice it as this spirit of Ubuntu is living within us as Africans…”
One of the major concerns raised during the dialogue was that South Africans do not identify themselves with Africa which was a big blow towards achieving Agenda 2063. In the words of one of the participants:
“…a lot needs to be done in educating youth about Africa. Often, we as South Africans do not identify as being part of the African continent as we refer our brothers and sisters from other parts of Africa as foreigners whilst we call people from the West as tourists. This starts in our homes, how we speak and refer to that African brother who is running a tuckshop that provides us with our daily necessities. We as youth must change the narrative, we have no excuse of our ignorance as we have social media and internet at our disposal. Before we endeavour to become global citizens, let us take pride in being Africans.”
Youth are frequently condemned by media and society as violent and trouble makers, but by training and then engaging youth in promoting nonviolence they have great potential to promote peace. It cannot be denied that youth are both victims and perpetrators of xenophobic violence; victims as being affected by structural violence, witnesses to violence at home and within communities; perpetrators as they can then become violent themselves. However, youth must be put at the centre of driving the Africa we want. Moreover, youth are an important human resource in driving social change and have the potential to contribute significantly to African unity and development.