Update from Qudus' blog

Sep 1, 2010

Youth and Culture as the mechanism for Africa’s development

12th of August 2010 marks the day the United Nations launched the International youth day in New York, and my cynicism raises some questions towards this development. Why? And Why now? In every part of the world, the present and the future seem bleak for the youth, who fervently take notice of hopeful figures about the north and south, developed nations and emerging economies, yet the reality remains for them, that 2009 offered the highest level of global unemployed youth, as some continue to fall victim to the grand economic crises; those in Africa still wander in the wilderness. And this exclusion poses a veritable question for the well being of our world. Discouragement and rejection, at an age when one is fully in the middle of self realisation, one’s future may be accompanied by a deep depression, loss of confidence, patriotism and interest in politics and institutions, which will only happen at the expense of our advancement.

A deteriorating patrimony

By the end of 2009, the international Labour Organisation declared 81million global youth between 15 and 24 years redundant. Meanwhile, 62% of Africans are below the age of 25. It might be disputed, but in the midst of this economic crisis, an opportunity opens up for Africa, because prior to this global phenomenon, the African youth had cultivated the habit of dreaming, for he spend most of his time dreaming about a better future, for that’s where he is going to spend the rest of his life. Youths in general are like architects bestowed with a powerful creative energy, and their basic need is space; spaces for freedom and expression, spaces that makes dreaming and its actualisation possible. This basic need is not something he can make compromises upon, in the absence of such space – just like a kid that we refuse to make toys available for – the youth still create beautiful things, not minding if it is destructive or offensive, the only problem with a misplaced youth is that, he may create a bedroom by your doorway, he may create a toilet in your kitchen in the absence of compliant spaces for such exorcism.

It is all right that youth are getting very involved with the media and showbiz, but it is imperative to also have more engaged youth, to attain our millennium goal, but unfortunately majority of today’s youths are not interested in state administration, but other trends that are guided by a punk-like youth culture, most African youth have cultivated a business relationship with their fatherland and the world around them, which demands them to be responsible, patriotic and to obey their country’s call of honour at all times. If we comprehend today’s youth as a responsible entrepreneur, we will understand that this honorary call don’t usually come with a fair negotiation. Common sense tells him that it is supposed to be a call and response, a win-win negotiation, and at no point in history has any group of young people, signed a patriotic pact with their country in the name of all Youths. There is therefore, a great deal of focus required to engage the African youth in productive endeavours in their lives, to prepare their mind for this extremely competitive market, and gain the much needed cooperation of this sect, to whom the future of all today’s efforts will be entrusted.

A cultured Market

As the level of unemployment grows in developed nations, there arises an urgent demand for Africa to guard its market and give rise for an internal market structure; this development has suddenly resurrected talks on Pan-Africanism. Pan-Africanism as we know it has failed because it has remained elitist, and because it did not attain grass-roots status. The AU summit has repeatedly featured despots and rulers with a very few enlightened leaders; here lies the effect of the deaf and dumb conversations on regional unity. Given the present phase of reality, a certain “holy trinity” now requires a very urgent attention: Culture, Agriculture and the Cultured, to create an environment and policies that will easily galvanise the people into action. This trinity has to be in correct perspective before any concrete policy can hold ground on the African soil, and more, it will enhance the sustenance of our gradual growth.

The culture i refer to is, as opposed to the present state’s ideas of culture that is embedded on a false self imagination, that which misconstrue a faction of cultural tourism as an authentic expression. I speak here, not of a culture on sales and solely consumable by tourists and expatriates, but that which provides a solid ground for a sense of dignity and a sense of self, which gives rise to an honest self appraisal, self renewal and self realisation. That which constantly worries about the factors upsetting our ardent need for peace and tranquillity, for an authentic identity and decency. I speak also of those qualities that arise from a concern of what is regarded as excellent in arts and letters, in manners and the creation of beauty, improvement of the mind and scholarly pursuit. A set of values and virtues that could lead to a healthy humanity, who can easily differentiate and discriminate between the meritorious and the meticulous.

Standards and values are an integral part of any culture; hence, culture is the bedrock supporting every development, it is a tool for emancipation and holds true for equal rights and responsibility for future generations. Our cultural heritage is generally associated with archives, works of art and monuments. In times of need, music, writings and other works of art can be a beacon of hope and comfort. Monuments and art treasures make a shared past visible and thus strengthen our need for a better future. Through access to the arts we learn to make choices, through them we determine which endeavours are worthy of our best efforts, and ultimately we learn to know ourselves, our humanity socially, as well as individually.

A civilisation is built not on oil, steel or bullets, but on stories; on the myths that shore it up and the tales it tells itself about its origins and destiny. With the high poverty level in Africa, we tend to refer to the 600million who fall under the “poor” status, as less important due to their low purchasing power.

If we see Agriculture as a faction of culture, as the art or the science which says it is important that we cultivate our land, which creates a compelling and conducive atmosphere for participation, raising crops and feeding all citizen from whatever the land produces, breeding our best minds and raising livestock and all things home-grown. Then we will see this "poor" class as a raw gold with a ready-made market whose (basic) needs has to be reached. As people buy banana or water in the Lagos infernal traffic, so they buy a DVD or a music CD, the present success of Nollywood (the Nigerian film industry) proves that the key to a healthy African society is a thriving community of story tellers, and the African community of my vision is a society that cannot do without arts and culture. Here comes a fundamental need to create and support the emergence of a wide and strong social entrepreneur and Pan-African cultural market, whose job will eventually be dual-facet, to at a time reduce poverty and at the same time providing a form of social structuring.

The cultured are the components of the emergence of a very pragmatic and indigenous think tank. We talk about democracy and human right, but firstly we need to at least have an idea of what humans want. How do we talk about market without a prior reflection on production? Until today our natural resources, including our youths, artists, intellectuals and culture continue to feed and decorate the developed nations, and we on the other hand continue to oversimplify problems that has their peculiarity to each nation, on this basis I foresee a physically powerful need for opinion research organisations and African think tanks, to unravel the over ridden cliché that brings about these unending intercontinental debates, where African nations continue to have distorted voices, and thus ineffective for Africa. By the time a think tank is set up, we can then begin to see the need to generate a much needed intra-African discourses, set on our own terms for our own issues.

Since the emergence and growth of the China-Africa economic ties, there has been a perpetual rise in a simplistic debate of aid versus private sector, aid over trade, private sector over public fund. The infested energy in these debates is alas engaging in the wrong battle; why not focus on how to create a probable partnership between the government who regulates and takes some responsibility, along with the donors and private sectors, and including the African as ordinary individuals taking charge of their own lives. How do we combine all these to engage the young people, create employment and at the same time getting the creative juices flowing. Aid or no aid, public or private, that’s not the issue, but to arrive at a policy that combines all these factors that is going to yield what we want.


Democracy might not be totally accepted if we pay heed to the African culture and reality, but we still need to consider a general opinion of the required component that proves a certain level of respect for the rule of law and human right. We require a political renewal that pays urgent attention to rebuilding collapsed systems of governance and public conduct, creating optimal leaders, a critical mass and responsible citizens. If these basic requirements of a viable leadership are in place, then Democracy is not an endpoint and ideologies are useless, what should concern us the most is development and so it is by any means necessary. If Africa considers a human-centred economy, we will know that a dream is priceless, creativity is invaluable, and that’s all the youth and the artistes got to offer. They won’t organise a coup d’état just because they got ideas, but in a way or the other they have to reconcile between their dreams, their desires and their creative energies. In a human-centred economy men are seen as people of values, whose particularities are assets for the developmental plan of a continent.

In as much as we begin to turn a new page, and Africa shines with signs of hope, we can’t but still keep in our mind that our list of to-do is still very long, it is important that we invest in the creation of other strategic cards. Despite the level of rapid urbanisation taking place all over Africa, 60% of Africa’s land is still uncultivated, we are yet to explore the power of our women, and we have a lot of time that needs to be better managed. The building of infrastructure is as wasteful and illogical as filling the ocean, if we overlook the building of the human resources that accompanies it, there is no (one) hospital without (many) doctors, there is no (one) school, without (many) teachers. We must imbibe a culture of excellence as against that of mediocrity, DISCIPLINE and a positive spirit of competition, compensation and congratulation.

If the problems facing the youth and our artistes stop at the lack of support and necessary attention paid to their initiatives, they can still work with that, but there are various types of obstacles in the form of policies that at the end frustrates their efforts to be relevant. Freedom is an essential right that can lead to magical discoveries, without a sense of liberty flourishing all over the continent like a smoke flushed into our airs, it will be difficult to make the best out of every citizen’s might and creative temperament. With this globalisation, it is important to note that nothing is entirely locally produced without the participation of external forces. So it is vital to be open to the world, but most importantly, to regional integration and exchange, subverting from national interest to a regional politics that is capable of challenging the political power of member states through sanctions and penalties when giving in to Coca-Cola national values that is unrealistic and not based on genuine cultural values.