Now that we are well hung-over by the intoxicating nostalgia of A US President, the first black US President, speaking at the AU – we need to sink our teeth into a few comments he made at the Nelson Mandela Hall yesterday.
Although we were hung onto Obama’s thoughts on the current situation of Presidents clasping on to power – conversing on the moral high horse developed countries enjoy riding when in Africa allowed us to overlook one of the more pressing issues he noted – the roots that harness the poverty tree.
Speaking to AU dignitaries, US Senates and the public youth in attendance, Obama mentioned issues that riddle the minds of young Africa. While celebrating the economic growth of Africa so far, he detailed that its not reflective of Africa’s quality of its citizens.
“Even with Africa’s impressive progress, we must acknowledge many of these gains rest on a fragile foundation.” He said. “Alongside new wealth, hundreds of millions Africans still endure extreme poverty. Alongside high tech hubs of innovation, many Africans are crowded into shanty towns without power or running water.” He added.
This fairly piercing statement rings true with young Africa. We read and share on social media on how 6 of the top ten fastest growing economies last year are in Africa. However growing economies have proved a little reflection on the state on the quality of life – especially when it comes to the youth.
We are at the whims of unemployment, food insecurity, power outages and lack of political youth representation. Yet we are the most present, and possibly most powerful populative group in the continent. This is why we just cannot conform to the ‘Africa rising’ naarative. With over 200 million Africans between 15 and 24, and only 40% of that bracket employed, stripping of the stereotype of a hungry poor Africa is a challenge, more-so when there is a strong lack of governmental and private sector intervention in youth empowerment and development.
But all is not completely lost, as Obama verbally incline America’s interest in Africa to governments working to create ease of business to young entrepreneurs. “Many of your nations have made important reforms to attract investment but in many places across Africa it’s still too hard to start a venture, its still to hard to build a business. Governments that take additional reforms to do business easier will have an eager partner in the United States. And that includes reforms to help Africa trade more within itself. Because the biggest markets for your goods are often right next door. You don’t just have to look overseas for growth, you can look internally.”
Intra-Africa Trade is once again a big challenge, as our governments look towards the west for investment out of two reasons (that we know of) 1. Buying power 2. Long standing relations. It is of course, important for us to assume and exercise our power through utilizing existing institutions and participating more with them – such as Amnesty International’s Africa is not for Sale Campaign, to ensure we do lay an economic role in our society – and disband this elitist movement of the rich minority benefitting from our toils of running businesses while we hop ropes for ‘exposure’.
Although, after all is said and done, It is difficult to swallow his words while a heavy lump in my throat aches over the amount of human atrocities African-Americans face in the US – their quality of life is fairly reflective of what happens here; through the US’s capitalist economic model, the quality of a black live is still a debatable matter – perhaps we need to play a significant role in uplifting their quality of life too, through creating policies that surround Affirmative action on their homeground, proving that black lives do matter.