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Why our generation must shape the youth of 2030

Wednesday October 18 2017

By NANJIRA SAMBULI
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2030. That is when Kenya’s development blueprint, Vision 2030, is supposed to deliver our country to middle-income status and prosperity. It is three or so election seasons away.

Even as today’s struggles cannibalise our mental space and create an apocalyptic vibe about the near future, I have found solace in sparing some intellectual capacity and indulging my imagination to envisioning beyond the here and now (or October 26th and its outcome, for that matter).

It makes for a somewhat refreshing mental break to the exhausting news cycles of today.

What, today, are the ideologies guiding our political, social and economic organising? Are we still falling victim to the “great danger ... that is the absence of ideology” that Frantz Fanon observed of Africa’s political circles decades ago?

The more we feel pushed against the wall, the more we must push back, primarily with our hearts and minds - against the despair and cynicism that may convince us that tomorrow will solve its problems, as today’s wahalas seem insurmountable.

This ‘pragmatism’ is the stuff of a capture that continues to serve the status quo, while placating us that at least we are surviving.

So, the year is 2030. Africa, hopefully, continues to rise. Things, in any case, are-a-changin’. The “leaders for life” are succumbing to the humbling reality that they cannot live forever; new leaders are taking the reins across Africa.

A number of them are young, or at least drawn from Africa's currently largest demographic. This crop has matured in the rhetoric of being called the leaders of the future and the hope for Africa.

PARTRIACHIAL AND EXTRACTIVE

These emerging, new leaders across business, politics and religious circles perhaps represent Africa's most educated generation. They have interacted with varied versions of the continent’s history, lived through these times of its so-called rise, and are acquainted with the challenges and opportunities alike that have likely shaped their desire to lead.

Are they taking on the reins through armed struggle or peaceful transitions?

Are they representative of a new leadership for real, or a perpetuation of the exploitative, opportunistic, patriarchal and extractive kind that dominates today? Are they puppets of an age-old system of inequality and injustice, or an unencumbered lot, the people’s choice?

What about we, the people? How are we faring by 2030? Are we still getting by on the day-to-day, hand-to-mouth, accept-and-move-on, “at least we are not like our neighbours” life sequences, or have a critical mass of us come to the realisation that survivalism is a vicious circle that isn’t broken unless the modus operandi is disrupted?

Is the next generation of youth picking up the same old fights from us, without an evolution? In Kenya, is one’s ethnic affiliation (probably even more fluid by then) still the cornerstone of politics and therefore the divvying up or denial of resources and opportunities?

Across Africa, are the 1884-85 colonial boundaries still serving as hindrances to the free movement of a people across their collective homeland? Are goods and services still prioritised over people for such movement across these artificial boundaries that are inexplicably maintained ever so fervently?

SANITISED VERSIONS

What if the fight remains exactly the same, 13 or so years down the line? What, then, will these leaders be telling us, to inspire us and garner our support?

Will the same rhetoric that ignites some flames of hope now still be able to do so then? Will hackneyed political campaign promises still get people excited?

Some could argue that for the youthful generation of 2030 - the kids of today - will still serve its purpose, which is to catapult their ‘saviours’ to power, and keep them there.

Yet, this is a generation that is already inter-connected, echo-chambers notwithstanding. They are living through a time of unprecedented access to information and a golden age of retelling our histories, beyond the sanitised versions that some of us were subjected to in school.

Sure, maybe they spend most of their time satiating the hedonism of the times, but as with our current “Gen Youth”, the realities that the jobs we were promised after years of cramming and studying are unlikely to come will likely lead to some questioning of why things are the way they are.

We all know the internet doesn’t forget. At their disposal will be the volumes of tweets, blogs, rants that we continue to generate about the struggles of our time. Will that count for something? An impatient, informed electorate that can sniff out the political balderdash templates that will be vigorously applied to them?

GLACIAL PACE

Maybe we are excited, maybe we are jaded as a new wave of leadership sweeps across Africa in the years leading to 2030. Maybe we draw links to the independence wave of the 1960s; maybe there are ideological drives evoking new Wangari Maathais, Sankaras and Lumumbas. Hopefully, many among these new political leaders are women.

Should things remain the same, though, should the glacial pace of reform and progress drag beyond the current ‘Africa Rising’ hallmark; what then? Are we ready for the resulting dystopias, and their repercussions?

Are we preparing the African leaders of the next couple of decades for these scenarios? In our societies and schools, stories and sermons, what is shaping the next generation of leaders? Who is influencing their thinking? Who should be?

Next time a conference, conversation or congregation around you gravitates towards this topic, entertain yourself by challenging the discourse beyond buzzwords and catchphrases about Africa’s future. That is one small way of breaking the mould in the most important yet invisible of spaces: the mind.

Twitter: @NiNanjira