Africa Day was celebrated in a Universal Peace Federation (UPF) - UK organised event yesterday with a variety of perspectives in a packed House of Lords committee room kindly hosted by Baroness Howells of St Davids. The event was also graced by a visiting Nigerian UPF delegation. Speakers included Ms. Belinda Otas, a versatile journalist, writer, editor, cultural critic, and an independent blogger and Mrs. Charlotte Simon, co-founder of Mothers of Congo, who is from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Mr Aliu Bello, who worked for UNICEF for 25 years, commented on 'Less Than 1000 Days To Go to Fulfil MDG's and What Comes Next for Africa after 2015'. Hon. Salisu Ahmed Bara u, Commissioner of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Community Relations in Bouchi State, Nigeria also addressed the gathering on 'Countering Religious Tensions in Nigeria'. Mr Mark Brann, European Secretary General of Universal Peace Federation presented a UPF perspective on 'Africa Day 2013 and the Relationship of Europe and Africa'. Mr. Olaleye Alao, National President of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, Nigeria also commented on the relationship of Africa and Europe entitled, 'Africa Day - The Work of God Can Never be Destroyed' concluding in song.
Baroness Howells of St. Davids began the programme explaining that this was a late celebration of Africa Day because of the Parliamentary Whitsun holiday. It is an event she is very enthusiastic about because she is passionate about Africa. She explained that she is a descendant of slaves who were taken from Africa to the Caribbean. She is perceives that soon it will be Africa's turn to shine and is looking forward to that time.
Robin Marsh of UPF thanked everyone for their participation and apologised as there wasn’t enough seats for everyone, he then introduced the Nigerian delegation that came the whole way from Nigeria to be with us.
Belinda Otas: ‘Africa The Next Generation Youth View’ (Photo wearing orange-red.)
(notes not verbatim transcript) 'Africa is going in the right direction. We are not denying that there is a lot to do. Last year it was said that it was, ‘Africa Rising’. ‘Is it okay to say ‘Africa Rising’ when not everyone is rising at the same time?’
Africa is growing fast. Between 2001 and 2010 there was a 5.2 % growth in Gross Domestic Product of Africa. More than five of the fastest growing national economies are African. According to the Economist Africa has a $1.8 Trillion economy. There is also a growing middle class defined as having $2 - $20 to spend each day using purchasing power parity. More than 27% of Africans in 2002 were Middle Class now 34% are in this category according to the African Development Bank. However, 34% is not enough. There are 1 billion people in Africa.
Africa’s youth is the key to maintaining Africa’s growth. The largest group of young people, aged 15-24 years old, in the world are in Africa. They form 20% of population, 40% of the workforce and 60% of the unemployed in Africa. When you have a lot of unemployed young people you can get riots. This is what we learned here in London. Politicians can get them to do their dirty work for a little food or money without understanding what they were doing. I saw it when I was young.
Today’s young people are different. They are more savvy and more social media aware. Education has been a strong point in some African nations. The young Africans in some nations are well educated, aware of geopolitical issues, very socially and strategically astute. They can see young people in other parts of the world and how their lives are shaped. They are sick and tired of being this docile group of people. There is no longer the traditional cultural imposition of respect to silent the next generation in front of their elders. It is the time to allow the younger generation to fly; to mentor them. That is something we have not always done.
What do we do to ensure this generation who are part of the future who will rule in 15 years from now. What will their aim be? From Luanda to Lagos to Accra to even the DRC where there are challenges, there are young people who are engaging in politics, economy and culture. Young people in London are enjoying the music of Africa. A few years ago I would not have owned up to enjoying Nigerian music in public. Now you see Congolese young people dancing to Congolese music on the bus. Young people are taking pride in their culture and enjoying what they do.
How can we make the young people participators in the political process, in wealth creation and as consumers? How can we prevent them from being used by older, corrupt politicians for their own selfish gains. There are signs of hope in Nigeria for example where in the last election young people were very active. They organised debates and questioned the candidates. Young people are much more politically astute.
The current generation needs to cultivate the next generation politically, socially, economically and culturally. This will be their legacy. The African Union (AU) needs to consider this. Africa can be proud of itself. We need to move away from the blame game. If we continue to blame the west for all our problems we are never going to be able to solve them. We have been manipulated to follow corrupt and incompetent rulers. We need to involve young people.
Enough of the aid culture and the dependency. We can support ourselves. It is time to take responsibility for Africa by Africans and not blame the west for our problems. This does not absolve the West’s responsibility but this is not the point now. We are the wealthiest continent. From the phone in your pocket to the food on your table so much of these things originate in Africa. We give so much to the world but we do not have access to it ourselves. The AU is integral to this by representing Africa on the world stage. We should keep more of that wealth for Africa itself. If others take it we should ensure that it is taxed sufficiently.'
Charlotte Simon, representing Mothers of Congo, spoke from her personal experience about the situation in Congo. She described the horrendous situation of rape, murder and exploitation of the people in the Congo. She explained that Congo is being stripped of its minerals wealth. She said that everyone having mobile, smart phones means we have the 'blood of a Congolese person in our hands'.
Further Africa Day Reports:
Countering Religious Tensions in Nigeria - Hon. Salisu Ahmed Bara u Commissioner for Religion in Bauchi State, Nigeria
Africa Day 2013 UPF-UK Celebration in the House of Lords - Report on the Africa Day event in the House of Lords
Africa Day 2013 and the Relationship of Europe and Africa - Mr Mark Brann UPF Europe Secretary General
Africa Day - The Work of God Can Never be Destroyed - Mr Olaleye Alao, FFWPU – Nigeria President
Bringing Peace Among the People in Bauchi State, Nigeria - Rev. Kennedy Masau Kakto