Let’s cultivate the culture of debating in Africa

Yacine Sichaib

It’s the Tuesday evening and  I just witnessed the closing of a rich forum in Valetta, Malta. A mediterranean event “MedForum 2016” organized by the Anna Lindh Foundation dealing with the very important thematic of “Intercultural Dialogue”. This initiative has brought together many North African actors of the civil society who play a crucial role regarding the main issues and challenges of the Mediterranean region, just as I talked about it in my last article  . But here we are in Malta, and of course we are not talking about Africa, but there is a connection that is yet to be established.

Anna Lindh Foundation is an inter-governmental institution bringing together civil society and citizens across the Mediterranean to build trust and improve mutual understanding. One of the greatest programs this foundation has developed in North Africa (particularly Morroco, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt) is the “Young Arab Voices” (YAV) in partnership with the British Council. It is an educational program that aims to cultivate the culture of debating among young people in the North African civil society. Since 2011 and especially after the Arab springs , the YAV project has empowered hundreds of activists and youth leaders to improve their arguments instead of raising their voices, leading them to conduct a very civic and innovative advocacy actions to bring the positive change among their communities.

quotes8-01Last March, during the forum “Debate To Action” in Tunis, the official representatives of the Young Arab Voices program had the opportunity to discuss with the Tunisian Minister of Education the possibility of integrating debates in the future Tunisian Curriculum . The director of the British Council in Tunis insisted also on that idea by declaring in the press conference after the forum “Our aim is to have a debate club in every single school in Tunisia”. The discussions and analysis of this initiative are still being analyzed before delivering in it down to work in schools. But from this promising project proposal, it all starts from an idea, and then we can move through a vision of progress for the promotion of intercultural dialogue among all the communities, and even get into integrate the new concept of global citizenship.

In the meantime, following this strategy will lead North Africa into grow a new generation of young people who will drive the whole region towards better days and raising rates. That is simply because communication is the key of understanding the other side of the developed world. It does not mean we cannot make a big step also for Africa, but with this kind of initiatives where we learn to debate efficiently with critical thinking, we will end up finding the right answers for the most complex questions we have about our continent’s sufferings and obstacles for growth.

More sincerely, the question that we should ask ourselves is : What about a Young African Voices program ? Are we under the assumption that Africa does not require young voices where our problems can be tabulated where young people can assess each problem through critical thinking and civic debates? Can we debate about our Subsaharan refugees and Libyan citizens suffering from extremism and division? With total respect and compassion towards the different opinions we may have from others. True formal debates lead us into feeding our thinking with innovative arguments and very smart perceptions of our actual African situation, instead of criticizing our actual governors without coming out with solutions. This will enlighten our minds, and only the enlightened ones can change the world. I believe that we can go and start with such initiatives, going from small acts into excellency, remembering what Mandela said about taking action : ” It always seems impossible until it is done”.


image courtesy: Saja Elgredly