Posts Tagged ‘youth’

Impressions of Senegal

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

by Jeannine Wilson*

The hustle and lively nature of Senegal struck me immediately as I left the Dakar airport at 5:00 am. As we commenced our drive to Saint Louis, the streets of Dakar filled, business as usual — commerce at its finest. The colourful markets, construction projects, and traffic of the city created a ‘morning energy’ different from any city I have been to before.

Our drive to Saint Louis was scenic and eye opening to say the least. The beautiful backdrop clashed with the disparities of the people. Despite the vibrant coloured dresses of women with child on their back, the little boys playing in the dust and men are trying to cultivate whatever possible the struggle to provide is evident. Upon arrival in Saint Louis, the surprising differences from Dakar are noticed in the post-colonial laid-back nature of the city. As youth fill the streets to start their day it becomes clear to me exactly why it is that targeting leadership in this generation is so important. The liveliness of this youthful generation is apparent in their big smiles, friendly nature, and love of sports as they are glued to the television watching the 2010 FIFA World Cup (See former intern, Meghan Davis’ post on ‘Sports and Youth Leadership). The opportunities to focus this energy into productive and effective manners to better their communities, regions, and country is a crucial realisation that has so easily slid under the radar of development programs. I am excited to continue my work here with Leadership Africa USA and I look forward to all the adventures ahead as I now believe and understand first hand why leadership is such a crucial aspect in ensuring socio-economic and political development in Senegal.

*Jeannine Wilson is one of Leadership Africa USA’s summer interns and is a rising senior at the University of Alberta, Canada. She is an honors major in political science with a focus on international relations.

Are the tides turning? Africa is finding her growth pulse

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

The end of armed conflicts, improved macroeconomic conditions and microeconomic reforms to improve the business climate are some of the key reasons given in a recently published article from McKinsey & Company (sign-up required) 

for Africa’s solid economic performance. Surprisingly, the article points out that the commodities boom is just a partial answer to the Africa’s GDP growth – other sectors such as manufacturing, telecommunications, and transportation have played an equally important role.

The more poignant points of the article (at least with respect to the work we do at Leadership Africa USA) included:

  1. the importance of ‘non-economic’ factors such as conflict resolution in being a contributor to charting Africa’s growth. Our work in conflict-affected environments is premised on that the fact that conflict inhibits development at the social, economic and human levels. Therefore it is of little surprise to us that the end (or marked reduction) of armed conflicts is one factor for Africa’s positive growth progress.
  2. The need to focus on educating the continent’s youth population as this cohort is a primary contributor to the region’s labor force expansion. Making education and skills training a priority will positively impact the probability of long term growth in Africa.

I believe we are experiencing a unique opportunity to make dramatic progress in Africa through quality education and leadership training to help raise living standards especially focusing on African youth (especially girls) – the new generation of change. Leadership training is critical — what do you think?

Addressing National Security Issues: Youth & Violence in Africa

Monday, April 19th, 2010

by: Giovanni Guerra*

Giovanni Guerra (right)

Through my studies of national security issues, I have come to the resolution that solutions and efforts need to involve more individual actors. Today, nations face numerous security issues ranging from poverty, hunger, health endemics, to wars and conflicts ( both internal and external). Although these issues seem almost impossible to resolve, I must argue that small changes, can greatly impact a nation’s effort to address various security issues.

For instance, let’s take a particular national security issue common within many African nations, civil conflict and unrest and how addressing the ‘youth’ issue may impact this security issue. According to a study  by Population Action International, there was a strong correlation between civil conflict within nations and the large number of youth populations (sometimes referred to as a youth bulge). 

This youth bulge is a relatively common phenomenon amongst many African nations. Unfortunately, it has been linked to instability within nations, especially in connection to starting civil unrest and thus making it an important national security issue.  As this civil unrest within nation’s increasingly foster criminal activities and violence within gangs and paramilitary groups amongst youth, it would seem that a simple way to address the issues is by decreasing the effects of civil unrest within nations.

The magnitude and severity of civil unrest requires multiple actors both large and small. For individuals stepping up to the challenge of addressing this issue, there is, I think, need to address the fact that youth involvement in criminal activity cannot be seen purely in a derogative manner. To me, many people believe that people partake in criminal activity and engage in violence simply because they are evil. But it is important to understand that in reality, individual participation in such crimes are simply part of the rational-choice theory in criminal studies. This theory states that people who participate in violence and criminal activity do so not because they are evil but as they see no rational alternative.

Using this logic, the best strategies to resolve the national security threat that youth in gangs and paramilitaries pose involves a holistic approach that not only addresses natural resource issues  resulting from urbanization and the ‘youth bulge,’ but also addresses social development within youths themselves. One such strategy is the creation of youth development programs as part of educational programs that stresses both conflict resolution skills and leadership skills. Finding and supporting educational programs are the simplest way for both individuals and states to approach and tackle such national security issues.  

There are positive side effects nationally, regionally and even globally, when focus is paid on decreasing the hostility and likelihood of civil unrest among communities by increasing both the leadership and the conflict resolution capabilities of its youth population.  So, let’s take a step in the right direction, support and become involved in youth educational programs that focus on conflict-resolution and leadership development; they make a lasting impact in nations and ameliorate the problems of national security issues.

*Giovanni was Leadership Africa USA’s Fall 2008 intern.

Happy 10th Birthday AGOA

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Shehnaz Rangwala

One of the most obvious examples of how integrated the world has become is the rise in global trade. In 2007 just one percent of world trade was worth $199 billion – much larger(actually 4 times larger) than the total development assistance to Sub-Saharan African countries from G8 member countries that year.  Yet regions such as Africa still face considerable problems accessing the enormous benefits of increased global trade. These problems range from inadequate or antiquated infrastructure; weak regulatory environments; to insufficient local capacity.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), signed into law on May 18, 2000, was a response by the United States to provide an arrangement for African countries to bolster their trade opportunities with the U.S. with the end goal of strengthened free market economies and improved economic environments in these countries. Since its inception, AGOA’s impact on economic development in Africa has been significant - more than 300,000 jobs have been created in Africa; non-oil exports have increased by 340% and imports have grown by an equally impressive 51% from 2007 to $5.1 billion in 2008. In Kenya alone, the exports to the United States have more than tripled! Apparel exports in Kenya have remarkably increased from $111 million to $344 million in 2008 .  

The Honorable Dr. Timothy Thahane, Minister of Finance and Development Planning, The Kingdom of Lesotho,  during his remarks at the celebration of the 10th year anniversary or AGOA also extolled the benefits of AGOA to the Lesotho economy. He noted that small textile industries that were previously employing less than 10,000 women, currently employ about 50,000 women under AGOA. AGOA is having a lasting impact in many African countries.

The challenge of AGOA is in maximizing the benefits of the global economy and ensuring all people share in those benefits. There is a need to re-double efforts in building the capacity in Africa in order to exploit the full potential of AGOA.  These range from:

  1. Training entrepreneurs on the fundamentals of business proposal development, identifying the target market, and understanding the different regulations affiliated with exporting a particular product;

  2. Conducting targeted trade missions to highlight viable opportunities for U.S. businesses in African countries;

  3. Expanding access to information regarding available opportunities that exist through AGOA;
  4. To Establishing support networks for SMEs (small to medium enterprises).

Equally important for AGOA and beyond, is the need to foster an entrepreneurial spirit among Africa’s large youth population. African governments should focus on creating a generation of Africans who are ably equipped to tap into the vast opportunities affiliated with global trade. Leadership development training is one such means to prepare Africa’s youth to be leaders in the fields of business, education, science, politics, agriculture and the list goes on.

Who is the leader of your country? I don’t know ….

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Karelle Samuda

It is no secret that for a while most of Africa faced a leadership crisis, with coups, brutal civil conflicts, and dictatorships being more of the rule than the exception during the 1970s and up to the mid-1990s. (See a 2004 Foreign Affairs article (membership required) on the pervasiveness of despotic rule in Africa). However, the tide has drastically changed for most of the African countries, as young democracies have been emerging and slowly gaining stronghold in African societies (President Johnson Sirleaf & Steve Radelet note that in 1989 there were four democracies and in 2008, there are 18 democracies and counting). A new cadre of African leaders is determined to chart their countries and continent on a path where positive and effective leadership and rule of law are the order of the day (see Greg Simpkins’ blog posting on one such leader, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf).

Yet, I was reminded of the leadership challenges some African countries continue to face when Guinea-Bissau underwent yet another coup; and this is but one of Guinea-Bissau’s many problems. This time I was not sitting in the comforts of my living room in the U.S. watching the news, I was in Ziguinchor in Senegal’s Casamance region which borders Guinea-Bissau.  (Thankfully, there was little indication that the coup attempt would have negative repercussions in Ziguinchor). The general response to ‘What’s the latest on what’s happening in Guinea-Bissau?’ was, ‘I don’t know.’  Then it struck me, a leadership crisis, cripples the basic functioning of any group, organization and/or country. It breeds an environment of confusion (imagine the majority of Guinea-Bissau’s population responding  with ‘I don’t know’ to questions regarding the leadership of their country!) that is inimical to producing the outputs and outcomes needed to develop a country. Obvious, I know…. but something that is fundamental to understanding why promoting leadership development at ALL levels is critical. There needs to be a mindset that is fostered from a young age that positive and effective leadership is not despotic; dictatorial; and oblivious to rule of law.

The closest I could get to the Guinea-Bissau border the day after the coup attempt.