Japheth Omojuwa: Africa’s 20-year-olds and the future of freedom (Y! FrontPage)

by Japheth Omojuwa

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The deregulation of the media on the continent via social media and cable television have brought Africa closer to itself and the world closer to Africa. Young Africans now see very clearly that freedom is not a gift from a dictator but a right they own as humans.

Some 50 per cent of the African population is under 20. It has been noted that by 2040 Africa’s labour force would be about 1 billion, making it the world’s largest. The beauty of this reality is not just about the size of the number but also about its quality. At about 42 per cent today, by 2030 about 59% of Africa’s 20-24 year olds will have had secondary education. More than at anytime in its history though, more young Africans are beginning to embrace the fact that with foreign aid and protectionist economic policies having held the continent down for decades, a new path must be found for the continent to truly achieve its undeniable potentials. Few events would exemplify that path than the gathering of African students at the historic city of Ibadan, South West Nigeria at the Regional Students’ for Liberty Conference.

Africa often gets reported as one phenomenon outside the continent but this continent comes with a diversity that is as rich as it is far-reaching, as unlimited as is it is unique even to the geographical expression that is Africa. There are different challenges and prospects for the young people of the 54 Independent African countries, but they share certain characteristics. More than ever before, they are demanding for justice and direct participation in how they are governed. In North Africa, this demand for justice and representative leadership led to what has since been dubbed the “Arab Spring.” The spring has not brought with it the kind of democratic fruits desired by the young people of Libya, Egypt and Tunisia, but the current storms around these countries will certainly not form into the dictatorship that they chased with their cries for freedom. They may not get the ideal but they will always be rest assured that for once in their lifetime as young people, their voices matter and count in their countries’ quest for development.

It may not have been as dramatic as it was in North Africa but young people in West Africa have been at the forefront of change in the sub-region. Former Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade did not see it coming but the combination of the country’s young people and an alliance of relatively younger politicians helped to change the direction of Senegal’s leadership from a man who was closing in on his 90th birthday to one who helped to shave some 35 years off that number.

” These protests ensured the then vice president Goodluck Jonathan was installed as the acting president. These young people have remained very influential in the Nigerian polity. There would be no Occupy Nigeria without the young people of Nigeria. A lot is expected from this class in the coming months and years as the 2015 elections beckon.

From Kenya to South Africa, Liberia to Malawi, young Africans, mostly in their 20s are at the forefront of freedom on the continent. With about 50 million of them on Facebook alone, they are also bridging the divide of borders. It was a consensus in post independent Africa that aid and protectionism were the way to go, but the times have changed. More young Africans are asking better questions, they are also part of the answers to Africa’s questions around economic freedom and development. They are no longer comfortable with an Africa with a beggar’s bowl , they want to see an Africa integrated into the global free market.

The deregulation of the media on the continent via social media and cable television have brought Africa closer to itself and the world closer to Africa. Young Africans now see very clearly that freedom is not a gift from a dictator but a right they own as humans. The just concluded Students For Liberty Regional Conference in West Africa, the just concluded African Liberty Essay Competition and the various engagements of young people across the continent point to one direction; a much freer Africa in the coming years, driven by its young people.

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Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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