Anis Haffar writes: Is the older generation failing Africa’s youth?

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Thu, 8 Mar 2018 Source: Anis Haffar

I was pleased to receive the invitation by Kai Wang, a broadcast journalist of the BBC World Series in London, to attend the Komla Dumor Awards and participate in the debate: “Is the older generation failing Africa’s youth?”

Quite a bit of prominence was attached to the occasion considering the esteemed presence of Ghana’s former president John A. Kuffour for both the debate and the launching of the Komla Dumor Award 2018 (at the Alisa Hotel, 23rd February, 2018).

Komla Dumor Award 2018

The BBC sought “a rising star of African journalism” for the BBC World News Komla Dumor Award. Now in its fourth year, the award invited journalists from across the continent to apply. Aimed “to uncover and promote fresh talent from Africa”, it was established to honour Komla Dumor, the exceptional Ghanaian broadcaster and presenter for BBC World News, who died suddenly at age 41 in 2014.

With the applications closing on 23rd March, 2018, the winner would spend three months at the BBC headquarters in London, gaining skills and experience. The award will be made to an outstanding individual living and working in Africa, who combines strong journalism skills, on-air flair, and an exceptional talent in telling African stories with the ambition and potential to become a star of the future.

The winner will receive a once-in-a-lifetime training with the BBC in London, starting in early September 2018 and running for three months. Working with teams from across BBC News, the winner will produce an African story for the BBC to be shared across the world. They will be supported by a BBC mentor and attend courses run by the BBC Academy.

The BBC will pay for the winner’s flights to and from the UK and for their visa, and will also arrange and pay for the winner’s accommodation in London during their placement. The winner will receive £2,000 per month for the three month placement to cover their living expenses and a one-off payment of £5,000 as a contribution towards loss of salary in their home country.

The Debate

The BBC’s Africa debate came on each month where “distinguished international panels, along with a hundred live audiences” were invited for the debate to discuss issues that matter to Africa and also help inform global perceptions of the continent.

In response to the question from the buoyant presenter, Akwasi Sarpong, my response was clear, explicit, and unambiguous: Yes, the older generation has failed and continue to fail Africa’s youth. Nowhere in my travels far and near do I encounter the depravity of the youth more so than in Africa.

Why on earth do the African youth desert the continent in droves on perilous journeys across the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean, and even to be sold in slavery?

It is no secret that until such time that Africa has conscientious leaders across board, committed and skilled government officials, concerned parents, the plight of the African youth may remain in the same deplorable condition.

In a 2017 column titled, “The plight of the Ghanaian child: A plea to the better angels in the nation’s leaders, chiefs, officials and parents”, I noted that “the amount of money, the time and energies wasted on expensive funeral rituals and billboards, with tears showered on the dead but not on the well-being of the nation’s children” is a puzzle indeed. Such cultural practices makes no sense whatsoever. And I pose the question: Is the African child any less important than children in other parts of the world?

The begging older generation

This response sent by a reader needs to be shared: “If I were an African president or minister, I’d be ashamed to go to the Chinese government to ask for aid. The Chinese have more people to feed than the whole African continent. It’s the Chinese who should be coming to ask our help. I’m ashamed to see how little pride we have left in our culture.”

“The same for India. India has more people to feed than the whole African continent. Still our Presidents go there to ask for aid from India to feed their people. Aren’t they ashamed? Don’t they see that they are the laughing stock? India has a population much bigger than the entire African continent, but the country is managed by one Prime Minister and 23 Ministers. Africa, with less population than India, is managed by 54 Presidents, and over 1,080 [One thousand and eighty] ministers who collectively still achieve less than a single Prime Minister in India.

“Africa, with less population then China, has 13,320 [Thirteen thousand three hundred and twenty] members of parliament who are full time employees on the payroll of states with skinny budgets. Are Africans inferior to everyone else, to be reduced to international beggars running here and there asking for help? Am ashamed to see my people being the object of pity to everyone.”

The cow metaphor

Another reader sent the following: “You have two cows, you eat them both the same day and you dream that donors or the international community will give you more cows to eat. You go to church and hope for the miracle cattle. You fast 40 days and 40 nights without eating or drinking so that the cows will fall from heaven. At last you die in extreme poverty.”

Columnist: Anis Haffar