Africa. If you had asked me three weeks ago I probably couldn’t have told you much about it. HIV/Aids. Corruption. Extreme poverty. That pretty much would have been about it.
Then everything changed. I was selected by the British Council to attend the Africa Youth Forum as part of the UK delegation at one of their Global Changemakers events. 85 young ‘Changemakers’ met in Cape Town, South Africa to discuss the main issues affecting Africa, and what we, as young people can do to bring about change. About 90% of the people in attendance were from the African continent, with the rest of us coming from the UK, Australia, China, Egypt, Brazil, Chile and India.
When I arrived, I was greeted by such inspirational young people, with a genuine passion for the work that they do, and a genuine passion for Africa. It was like nothing I had ever experienced in my life. In the UK we’re all pretty blasé about where we come from. Although we may (or may not) be proud to be British, the majority of people here (and sorry if I’m generalising), don’t really have a burning passion for jolly ol’ Blighty.
The six days that I spent in Cape Town were six of the most inspirational, motivating, interesting, demanding and humbling days of my life. From day one we were involved in workshops, discussion groups and debates about the main issues affecting Africa. These ranged from the rights of girls to the effect that the FIFA World Cup will have on the continent in 2010. Even when we weren’t in organised discussions, the dining room and the ‘chill out’ area outside were always full of the sounds of debate and discussions. I learnt so much about a continent so rich in culture and opportunity that I was slightly embarrassed about how little I actually knew.
I specifically remember talking to George, a Kenyan, about the effects of post-colonisation and remarking how little is taught to us in the UK about this. Yes, the issue of empirical rule and colonisation is still a subject that we are afraid to touch on, for fear of being insensitive, but it’s something that demands our attention and awareness. It’s a shame, because Africa has so much to offer to the world, especially the young generation. There is so much wonderful culture and history to learn about, and so much light in its future. I only wish we had as much coverage about the good things that people are doing in Africa, about the change for the better, as we do about anything else.
The future of Africa lies in the young generation, and from the looks of it, after meeting the African Changemakers, the continent couldn’t be in safer hands.