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education and entrepreneurship SHOULD BE key AS africa MOVES TOWARDS FREE AND FAIR ELECTIONS.


As the African National Congress (ANC) launched its election manifesto this past weekend and celebrated its 107th anniversary, the party hailed its achievements over the past 25 years. It’s important to remember that the ANC’s successes are also Africa’s successes. That’s because across the continent, the Ubuntu concept remains relevant to all and when one country succeeds, others are likely to succeed. The alluring idea that ANC could have achieved much more over the past 25years is something we still have to scientifically test if one acknowledges the burdens, challenges and mistakes of the apartheid past. Though one must also admit that the past decade has not entirely been citizen and country-centred.
A decade or so ago, election year for most African countries created fearful uncertainty and a severe lack of trust among voting citizens for the often dubious, power-hungry candidates. This resulted in both pre and post-election violence, fuelled by morally deficient leaders not willing to accept outcomes and wanting to prolong their term within a “democratic state”.

Photo Source: Jacaranda FM

Fortunately, Africa is now steering itself towards genuine free and fair election processes, but it’s by no means there yet, as many countries continue to delay results, restrict freedom of speech and ban social and traditional media, amidst vote rigging and corruption allegations. Yet any party, governing or challenging, is certain to also have an element of voter’s distrust and the ANC has its share too.

Moving on, Africa’s two economic giants, Nigeria (February) and South Africa (May), are heading to the polls this year. Nigeria has had its problems over the years, such as corruption, a lack of adequate infrastructure and endorsing policies that deter investors. Amidst this, the country is now promising to clean up its act and ensure that its citizens and specifically its youth – the primary future economic drivers of any country – are prioritized and supported to reach full potential.

This is something I cannot stress enough, because if any country stifles its youth, it suffocates its economy. Whether Nigeria achieves this or not is yet to be seen as similar promises been given today by politicians on the campaign trail has been heard before.

Back to the manifesto, the ANC achievement’s list over the years included transforming the future of millions of young people by massively expanding enrolment in schools, universities, colleges and early childhood development programmes. Although many analysts said there was nothing new in the President’s speech, a few things should be acknowledged, one being that he recognized the party’s shortcomings and is garnering various social partners to support his mission to address such.

Acutely aware that unemployment, which now stands at a crisis rate of over 9 million, the ANC’s manifesto also made bold mention of creating over 275 000 jobs per annum, something that does inspire confidence. Yet remember Africa, manifestos are basically political promises, which are designed to lure and secure voters. So these are promises that cannot be broken. The manifestos must be satisfactorily aligned with ensuring that proper and capable cadres are deployed to implement the vision of the party. Also non-cadres but qualified people must also be considered for various positions.

The ANC’s promise included establishing an Infrastructure Fund. It added that it will open new emerging companies by ending monopolies and anti-competitive behaviour. It will draw more women, rural people and youth into the economy by expanding access to digital skills and training young people by developing and supporting technological and digital start-ups, with a more concerted focus on SMMEs, cooperatives and township/village-based enterprises.

Increased access to education and skills development for more young South Africans is another feather in the governing party’s cap and music to my ears. The commitment to upskill the youth in data analytics, coding, the internet of things, blockchain and machine learning aligned to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, I warmly welcomed as a self-starter and a dedicated start-up champion.

With over a dozen African countries heading to polls this year, the key question is how have all the potential leaders prioritised education, entrepreneurship and the hugely significant role that young people play in their manifesto? Let’s hope that the continent as a whole strives to be a real, youth-empowering developmental continent.

Today, it really is becoming one Africa for all. The Africa Free Trade Continental agreement and the African Union’s continental passport invites us to seamlessly think and act continentally and realise that each of our countries can – and should – work together for our mutual development. We must always ask ourselves, have we prioritised and done all we can for our youth?

I hope all those countries heading to the polls this year will ensure free, fair and peaceful democratic elections, which will benefit the people and not the party.

Remember, the citizens, the world and investors are watching…

Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa – 22 on Sloane, Africa’s largest start-up campus.

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