In these past weeks, the news mill became quite exhausting for me that I nearly pulled the plug. For many years I have done my best to keep abreast with current affairs. However the recent months have had me feeling burnt out for ‘hearing only bad news on Radio Africa’ as Latin Quartier once sang.
As the tempers started going down in Kenya, Zimbabwe took the top spot with events that I must say have ended in a rather impressive manner. Comrade Robert Mugabe is now an ordinary citizen of Zimbabwe as Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa takes charge. Before many could nail the pronunciation of his name, it dawned on some of us that African migrants were actually being auctioned off and sold into slavery! The year is 2017.
It was indeed very thoughtful and commendable that the Rwanda government chose to open its borders to these fellow Africans in distress. More importantly this Libyan story is the kind that not only enrages you but also compels you to ask the tough questions regarding the place of our young people in society. Yes we have given some of them a home in Rwanda, but what is it that they were running from in the first place?
These young and able bodied fellows are often referred to as economic migrants, willing to risk it all in the treacherous waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Africa has been described as a land of potential and the future for almost everything but we steal have our young people seeing only a situation so hopeless that taking to the high seas is a viable option. These economic migrants are doing all they can to flee their countries to head out to Europe to search for a better life.
At the same time, the continent of Africa is dealing with a surge in the numbers of young people. These young people also dominate the category of poor people where you have growing inequalities and other challenges. They are the dominant population when it comes to unemployment as well. What bothers me more is how these young people are no longer just the leaders of tomorrow but also a great resource for the continent.
I then ask myself how they are really resources when we have not invested in creating value in and around them. Of course we have extended education to almost all of them but is it not, more of academic inflation where we worry not about the standards but sing about the amazing numbers of those attending school now compared to several years before. Have we not failed to create enough jobs fast enough to absorb those with skills to offer?
While some are aware they have no skills, others believe they have skills for everything and will not hesitate to remind you that they can “do anything as long as the money is there.” Sports betting spots have morphed into a familiar space for them to get their regular fix of hoping they will strike gold soon.
The shrewd politicians will remind them about how they are future leaders and to remember to vote for them when the time comes. Another pain killer we have served to our young people is that entrepreneurship is the panacea for all their problems. All they have to do is innovate and create a mobile app and voila! We forget the infrastructural challenges they will be faced with as they embark on a journey that others are cruising through.
It is high time we fixed the real issues that cause our young people to be this desperate. There is no way we can expect the continent to achieve its full potential when those who are supposed to power the rise are heading for the high seas. Yes education is important but we need to put the focus on mastery of skills than diploma awards.
There is no better resource than young, able bodied and impressionable young people. The need to keep offering them the right skills, attitudes and knowledge cannot be over emphasised. The story of Libya is heartbreaking because as a continent we are losing young men and women in their prime.
We urgently need to find lasting solutions to this exodus or at least ensure that their human rights are respected if they choose to go and work in the Gulf States. Better labour policies and improved bilateral ties should be the norm and not the response. Once again kudos to Rwanda for giving people hope.
Views, expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the New Times Publications.