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Time for young people to lead Africa

HE Hailemariam Desalegn, Former Prime Minister, Ethiopia

Delivering the 10th Thabo Mbeki Africa Day Lecture at Unisa, former Ethiopian Prime Minister, His Excellency Hailemariam Desalegn Boshe, said that young people should be given a chance to lead Africa.

Hosted by Unisa and the Thabo Mbeki Foundation, the theme of the lecture was The National Question, peace and democracy in Africa, in recognition of the challenges of diversity experienced on the continent.  

"Some deny the question of nationalism; however, in reality it exists," said Hailemariam. "Africa should collaborate in unity and fight its challenges."

According to Hailemariam, collaboration among African states can assist the effectiveness of democracy and unity in the continent. He explained that young people should be given a chance to lead Africa, as their demands are clear and they are becoming impatient. "The big question is who is going to understand their wishes," he said. He explained that politics dominated by older people and excluding youth might work for Europe and the United States because of their aging populations, but that it would not in Africa with its overwhelmingly young population. "Succession planning is important - old leaders should move aside and support the youth for development, peace, and a prosperous Africa. This is their time."

HE Hailemariam Desalegn, Former Prime Minister, Ethiopia

Hailemariam identified the western traditional definitions as particularly problematic when it comes to dealing with the national question. Focusing on the definition of this problem, he pointed out that colonial and apartheid legacies birthed the meaning of this term. "The intellectual community should ensure that the definition of the national question addresses the problems of Africans," he said. "We should mobilise African scholars to research the definition of nationhood, because the current definition was thrown at us by colonial masters. Writing an article about this issue might be enough for academics, but it doesn’t transform society. There is a need for aggressive intellectual discourse and support. I call on you to come forth and avoid leaving these issues to political elites."

In his closing remarks, Hailemariam encouraged young people of South Africa to be organised and travel the continent.

Former President and Unisa Chancellor, Dr Thabo Mbeki, introduced the keynote speaker. He said South Africa should establish an inclusive national identity. "I believe that Africans should come to this matter of nationhood in as practical a manner as possible," he said. "We should not delegate the responsibility to political elites, because the issue is not distant from us."

Dr Somadoda Fikeni, Programme director, and HE Thabo Mbeki, Unisa Chancellor

In his welcome address earlier in the evening, Prof Mandla Makhanya, Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor, said he believed that the Thabo Mbeki Africa Day Lecture is another layer of critical conversations that Africans must have to explore and confront the past, interrogate the present and shape the future. "This year’s theme speaks to the challenges that we are facing as a continent," he said. "Remarkably, 25 years post-democracy the national question remains as intractable as ever. This evening’s address and discussion will undoubtedly help us to refocus on these genuinely noble aspirations, offer food for thought as we chart the way forward, and prompt some healthy self-examination and introspection around our roles as individuals and as leaders, intellectuals and responsible citizens in the renewal of our country and our continent."

Prof Mandla Makhanya, Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor

A panel discussion was facilitated by activist and African scholar, Lebogang Liepollo Pheko. The panellists were Unisa’s Chair in Social Policy at the College of Graduate Studies, Prof Jimi Adesina, together with Christine Qunta, an attorney and author.

Prof Jimi Adesina, Chairperson: Social Policy College of Graduate Studies; Christine Qunta, attorney and author; HE Hailemariam Desalegn, Former Prime Minister, Ethiopia; and Lebohang Liepollo Pheko, activist, scholar and author

Among others, the lecture was attended by Thoko Didiza, MP, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, Minister of Science and Technology, and Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans.

* By Lesego Ravhudzulo, Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2019/05/31