The Future of Africa Starts With Education

August 3, 2010
Youth Smile As They Look Out of School Window in South Africa

President's Forum with Young African LeadersAbout the Author: Tau Shanklin Roberts serves in the Public Affairs Section of U.S. Embassy Pretoria in South Africa.

Delivering remarks in Accra, Ghana, in July 2009, President Obama said, “We must start from the simple premise that Africa's future is up to Africans...we've learned that it will not be giants like Nkrumah and Kenyatta who will determine Africa's future. It will be the young people brimming with talent and energy and hope who can claim the future that so many in previous generations never realized.”

The President's Forum with Young African Leaders starts today. From August 3-5, President Obama will host approximately 120 young leaders from the civil society and the private sector representing more than forty countries in sub-Saharan Africa to discuss their vision for transforming their societies over the next 50 years.

I caught up with one of our delegates from South Africa, Lesego Sekano, to ask a few pre-forum questions regarding her expectations of the event and visions for the future of Africa.

What do other people think about your attendance at the forum?

They think that it will make a difference to have young people speaking on behalf of their future. They are excited that such opportunities exist and that I can be part of such processes. They believe that the knowledge I will bring back will be worthy and that the initiative will bring about great opportunities for me and them at large. Yet most of all, they think it is exciting.

What do you think your attendance adds to the forum?

Being from labor trade unions, it will bring a different perspective when meeting with business and politics. Building Africa into a viable economic hub will take a combination of factors not just business. Thus, I think the experience that I will bring into the forum will fare well with the objectives of the forum and bring about a different view.

How do you think participating in this forum will benefit you?

I will get a better (shared) understanding of what is lacking according to the future leaders in Africa, in particular to becoming a strong economy that can compete with the best of major economies when we have so many resources but do not have the wealth from those resources. There will be opportunities to build new networks that could help build Africa. I will learn from developed economies how they managed to get to the stage they are in, and if the same could work for Africa. Mostly I will meet young leaders who are as passionate about Africa as I am, and who want to make a difference in building a better non-dependent Africa with an economically, independent Africa through initiatives like entrepreneurship and skills development.

What is your vision for the future of Africa?

My vision for Africa is to see it eliminate poverty and grow economically. I want Africa to be self-sustainable and independent not just from formal colonization, but free from economic colonization.

What resources (human or otherwise) do you need to accomplish that vision?

We need competent leadership, free of corruption, and we need to transform our resource-based economies to manufacturing industrialized economies. However, I am practical enough to know that we are still miles away from realizing the African Dream. For now, it will have to start with the realization of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) then everything else should fall into place. Before you can have competent leadership, future leaders have to have the opportunity to go to school and receive an education. It all begins with education.

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