Two ALA students participated at the One Foundation Symposium in Johannesburg on February 15. The event was hosted by Patricia Amira (of “The Patricia Show” fame), and presenters included: famed blogger and now Google Africa employee Ory Okolloh, Susie Lonie, who presented Vodacom’s M-Pesa virtual cash system, and Ashifi Gogo, who’s company Sproxil, helps people ensure that they are buying legitimate medicine, not expired or counterfeit drugs. Also in attendance were One founder Bono, and event co-hosts Sipho S. Moyo, the Director of ONE Africa and Rakesh Rajani, Founder of Twaweza.
Mixed in among the panel discussions were stand-alone presentations by Edwin Warsanga, a second year ALA student from Tanzania, and Hind Ourahou, a first year ALA student from Morocco. Edwin went first and spoke about youth employment and empowerment. His experiences running Darecha anchored his talk, and he challenged the audience to find their role in Africa’s transformation. Hind also spoke from personal experience, urging the attendees to emulate the cathedral builders of old, who started the visionary task knowing that its completion would be after their lives had ended.
The student speakers were lauded for their contributions to the event, with attendees noting that it was refreshing to see such active and powerful youth instead of the usual stereotypes of lost generations. Bono in particular was impressed with our speakers. The next day, when interviewed on local radio, he commented, “I think these next generations have big challenges but I think they are up to it. They are taking it (a leading role in defining Africa’s future) … I’ve never felt so good to feel so useless.”
The text of Edwin Warsanga’s presentation:
In the coast of Tanzania, a 20 year old, Fadhili, sells house-models made from boxes and cardboards. He started his business two years ago with his customers mainly being the producers of the growing movie industry and architects in Dar-es-Salaam. Despite his demanding academic load, Fadhili has seen success in his business and has recently expanded into making charcoal from the extra cardboards and papers he collected.
Similarly, in the centre of Tanzania, a 19 year old, Lusekelo, runs a maize farm and a pharmacy in his remote village. He initiated these projects after being triggered by the abundant arable land and limited heath care facilities in his community. Lusekelo is currently in grade 11 at the African Leadership Academy in South Africa while his two years old projects that employ 5 people in his community are running smoothly.
Ladies and Gentlemen, these are stories of two young people who had a vision, and took a bold step to bring it into being. At a young age, they have taken part in the battle to reduce unemployment and improve the standard of living in the country.
But why are we always moved by the stories of young people like Lusekelo and Fadhili?
Is it because what they have done is rare and unexpected of people of their age?
I remember being embarrassed and feeling like an outcast when I asked my friends to join me in brainstorming solutions to combat the horrendous unemployment in Tanzania. The looks they gave me just drained what ever self-confidence I had. This all happened because, in the world we live in, timidity and the society’s point of view holds back young people from pursuing their dreams.
Imagine a world where people like Lusekelo and Fadhili are found in every community setting; how quick will it take for extreme poverty and acute unemployment to terminate? A visionary 21 years old Julius, pictured this world and made a path into its creation. He founded DARECHA (Dar-es-Salaam Young Entrepreneurial Challenge) in his junior year at the African Leadership Academy. DARECHA is missioned to combat poverty and unemployment by inspiring an entrepreneurial outlook among youth in Tanzania through business idea competition.
I learnt about DARECHA when I joined African Leadership Academy and met with Julius who was in the senior class. He then asked me to run DARECHA during the 2010 June school holidays, and I agreed. Running DARECHA was an opportunity for me to rise up at a young age and start my journey to combating the 96% youth unemployment rate in Tanzania as the figures were put forward by the Director of Youth Development in Tanzania. Joined by my fellow Tanzanian classmates at ALA and some friends in Tanzania, along with the financial support from the British based Global Changemakers organization, we launched DARECHA 2010 in mid June. After the launch, we send application forms to schools and youth centre and sensitized young people aged between 15 and 25 to write business ideas that address problems in their community. After four weeks, the collected forms are reviewed and the twenty best applicants are invited for week-long entrepreneurship training with a focus on needs identification, solution generation, marketing and presentation skills. Thereafter, a panel of entrepreneurs, professors and teachers selects the top three business ideas that participants modified based on the new skills they learn. The three winners are awarded with capital to launch their ideas, thus giving rise to initiatives like Fadhili’s and Lusekelo’s.
If we develop just 100 more Lusekelos and Fadhilis, at least 1000 more jobs can be created in the country. This positive difference can grow exponentially if the model is replicated to solve similar problems throughout Africa. Currently, DARECHA’s model is being applied in other four countries in Africa gaining the names of Hoima Entrepreneurial Challenge in Uganda, Junior Entrepreneurs of Zimbabwe, Rabat Entrepreneurial Challenge in Morocco and Goma Entrepreneurial Challenge in DRC.
To conclude, I would like not to bring again your attention to the potential that we young people have in transforming our continent because it has been overemphasized. We need to create viable systems to tap into this potential; Systems that will empower youth to solidify their fresh ideas and set the trend for others to follow.
I have taken part in the making of such system. What role are you going to take?
The text of Hind Ourahou’s presentation:
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Hind. I am an eighteen year old Moroccan and I study at African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa.
I have lived to see youth, careless of the world around them. Too swallowed by their own lives; longing for a westernized future and confused about their African heritage. They have no trust in their governments, no wish for action and no belief in their ability to impact.
This issue of youth and belief is hindering a whole continents development. It is keeping the wrong people in leadership positions and emphasizing the mistaken image of our Africa in the eyes of the outside world.
To be honest it bothers me to know how great the power that lies between their hands, a power of will and talent, and yet still claim their needs are being ignored. Why should the youth ask and wait when they have the freedom to plan and do. I have had the chance to experience this power while at African Leadership Academy, where I have met outstanding young people; Students who cannot wait to face the world and show everyone that change is coming. There I feel humble in front of their belief and optimistic vision of the future of Africa. However, I feel sad that the rest of my peers around the continent remain unempowered and unaware.
Youth under 20 years of age represent 50% of the population in Morocco. Only 4% of these are involved in some kind of associative activity.
I would be unrealistic if I were to ask my government to educate the masses, provide universal healthcare, defend our nation, remove corruption… and deal with it all at once. This wouldn’t be just hard and unrealizable. It might be destructive. Instead of an economic transformation, it could result in recession and loss. Therefore I believe in one concept. I would quote Margaret Mead and say: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Empower the talented minority. A talented minority of youth who are eager for development. And I assure you that with good guidance, support and education, in a few years, this talented minority will take upon themselves the problems of the majority. These same future African leaders, African social entrepreneurs and African intellectuals will naturally lead the economic transformation we are all longing to achieve. This talented minority will hold values of integrity, persity, humility, curiosity, excellence, compassion but most of all TRANSPARENCY. They will carry these values with them wherever they go and whatever they do. They will be entrenched and rooted in them. These committed youth will empower future generations. And from there, nothing can stop the domino effect that’ll result.
The famous cathedral in Milan, Italy, took 500 years to complete. It started with a vision by the talented. When they have stated they knew they would never live to see it. In fact they knew their grand children might not live to see it. But they believed in it. That minority of skilled laborers created something for the benefit of everyone. Isn’t the result up-lifting, awe-inspiring. All of us here must contribute to the building of OUR cathedral: Africa. I have experienced this power when I had organized a mobilization of dozens of students and parents to voice their unhappiness about the incorrect results of the regional exam of 2008.
When results came out we realized it has been an administrative error, top students got the lowest results and the lowest achieving students had been given the highest results, This was a big problem because it would affect students future.
It all started with a message that I composed and sent with the aid of a dear friend to all the students, parents and teachers concerned I know. And where I explained that a lot of people had to gather in front of the academy of education the next day at 10h30 am. I tried to make it as motivating as possible but still I was far from imagining that so many people would come. I wasn’t even sure my friends would show up.
But the message did spread all around the region. People came to express their unhappiness from far. Moreover; they prepared sentences to repeat and a list of demands. The crowd got bigger as we kept on coming day after day, which pushed Mister Minister of Education to accept meeting a number of parents in order to discuss the issue.
It’s true that this didn’t change our grades! However, the fact that people I don’t even know showed up, that media talked about it , that we formed one community when shouting and repeating expressions we thought of, that the ministry felt forced to look again at the system to make sure this problem won’t happen again … the fact that One message got such a response, had more impact on me than I’ve ever imagined. Now I know it only takes a push to make people voice themselves.
I am not saying that it’s always as easy but it surely is always as possible.