Photo: Kadir van Lohuizen/NOOR
African political leaders and big business must stop selling the future of the continent’s youth and start promoting alternative growth models rooted in youth empowerment, human development and human rights, said Amnesty International and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa today as they launch the new #AfricaNot4Sale campaign in Johannesburg.
The roundtable will critique the “Africa Rising” narrative of a future rooted in economic growth alone and suggest alternative models. It will bring together 20 remarkable young human rights champions from across Africa at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange as part of a two-day roundtable dialogue on corporate accountability in the social and economic lives of Africa’s youth.
The youth of Africa have long been side-lined in discussions and initiatives relating to the development of their own continent. They have watched as the spoils of Africa have been divided and shared amongst multinational companies with the approval of their governments – and they have felt too powerless and, in many cases, too disinterested to intervene. Dispossessed and disempowered youths are saying #AfricaNot4SaleSimphiwe Dana, the award-winning South African Afro-soul singer and passionate campaigner for social and economic justice, who is an #AfricaNot4Sale ambassador.
“The youth of Africa have long been side-lined in discussions and initiatives relating to the development of their own continent. They have watched as the spoils of Africa have been divided and shared amongst multinational companies with the approval of their governments – and they have felt too powerless and, in many cases, too disinterested to intervene. Dispossessed and disempowered youths are saying #AfricaNot4Sale,” said Simphiwe Dana, the award-winning South African Afro-soul singer and passionate campaigner for social and economic justice, who is an #AfricaNot4Sale ambassador.
The participants of the roundtable were drawn from diverse backgrounds and sectors that span all sub-regions of the African continent. They come from Kenya, Mauritius, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt and elsewhere, representing well-established youth constituencies in their respective countries, and have been championing human rights issues. The participants are between the ages of 20 and 30 years old.
The youth-led gathering aims to deconstruct the “Africa Rising” narrative using a human rights lens in order to expose the contradictions of economic growth in relation to youth unemployment, deepening youth poverty and rising youth inequalities.
“Despite the euphoria surrounding Africa’s growth projections over the past several years, inequalities – fuelled by high unemployment and deeply entrenched poverty – continue to undermine the social and economic wellbeing of youth across the region. This is an unacceptable state of affairs with far-reaching implications for human rights and fundamental freedoms,” said Edward Ndopu, Amnesty International’s Regional Activism and Youth Coordinator for Africa.
Africa is home to the world’s largest youth demographic. According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the region’s average age sits at 19.7 years. This is in stark contrast to the average age of 30.4 for the world as a whole. Despite making up such a large proportion of Africa’s population, young people remain largely disaffected and disenfranchised in terms of social and economic rights.
“Africa Rising” and other models of economic development tend to ignore how precarious the situation is for many young people throughout the region. For example, according to the African Economic Outlook, on average, more than 70% of Africa’s youth live on less than US$2 per day, the internationally defined poverty threshold. At the same time, Africa supposedly boasts seven of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world.
“There is a clear disjuncture between Africa rising, which – frankly – has become a rather hackneyed narrative, and divorced from the socio-economic realities on the ground. This, of course, begs the question – for whom is Africa rising? The answer, we believe, must invariably bring us to a deeply critical and nuanced conversation about the role of state and non-state actors in perpetuating status quo,” said Edward Ndopu.