Youth is Africa’s greatest resource

June marks an important period of our democracy and our youth as we are reminded of the immense contribution made by the country’s young people in the struggle for freedom, justice and equality, following the youth of 1976 who stood against apartheid and Bantu education.

Three decades later, do we have any reason to celebrate today’s youth? Yes and No!

Anyone who was there in 1990 keeps talking about the palpable euphoria that greeted the dawn of independence. It was the greatest day of our lives, they say. Namibians came from literally all over the world to celebrate; most of them were youth, ‘lucky youths’ who had been sent outside the country to study.

Between 1990 and 2010, this youth generation became the pillars of the country, providing the much needed knowledge anchor of transition from the old guard that was in the trenches to the current status quo.

That youth generation celebrated the end of the war. They celebrated the prospect of freedom, peace and justice. They took for granted that under our own Government freedom, peace and justice were natural and prosperity would follow.

Most importantly, Namibia celebrated our young leadership, which while executing the struggle, had also acquired knowledge. It was a cosmopolitan lot; some having studied at some of the best institutions in the Americas, in Europe and in Asia.

We had an intellectual for Prime Minister in Hage Geingob. President Sam Nujoma was erudite, charismatic and assuaging. Most permanent secretaries in our ministries had PhDs. Some ministers had doctorates too. There was no way this group of talented individuals could ever fail us.

Our economy was in the hands of a capable man, Otto Herngel. Even when Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila took over the National Planning Commission in 1995 at 27, those who doubted her were just gender sensitive. Some today say she might be the best Minister of Finance Namibia will ever have.

There were many more illustrious sons and daughters of the soil who made up the inaugural Government, motivated by a cause which today’s youth seems to lack. Namibia.
They had emerged out of a painful war and had a very hostile regime ruling the country to our south. So there was a real reason for young people in the new Namibia to fear a reversal of our fortunes.

The youth generation of post-911 (September 11 2001 when terrorism changed the face of the world economy and politics) need to recommit themselves to fully identify and fulfil not only the cause of young people, but also their course.

But one question seems to be missed by the youth. What are we here for today?

We carry an article on the youth this month and an opinion piece by a youth leader, both riding on a host of youth gatherings that took place recently (the National Youth Week in Rundu (April), the Youth Congress, the China-Africa Youth Congress (May).

Over the last two decades youth products from that 1990 generation has become buccaneering business people seeking business opportunities to grow the economy.

Today, the youth do not have any aims. They aim to be like Sam Nujoma, Carl List, Hage Geingob, others like Harold Pupkewitz. Youth are supposed to aim higher than their heroes because the set-up is different now.
Youth must also make a distinction between their heroes and their role models.

It was students who brought about the revolution in the Algeria, Egypt, swept Menderes out in Turkey without thinking in terms of the odds against them, and they couldn’t be bought out. Just like the youth of the late ‘70s in South Africa and the then South West Africa (Namibia). Interestingly Engelhard Haihambo, the Roads Contractor Company Chief Executive officer, who is on this month’s cover story, was a key figure in these 1970’s youth movement.

So what revolution can the youth bring about today? What part in the Namibian economic revolution are youth playing, and can we have future business and political leaders from this generation?

Many instances, today’s youth cry for money. They blame Government for neglecting them, yet if we consciously monitor the effectiveness and efficacy of the country’s development interventions we may arrive at the conclusion that while much ground has been covered in advancing youth development, this generation’s youths’ structure does not fitting anywhere.

The only economic development of young people seems to be centred on funds, without spelling their agenda.

To me, empowerment should not be what you control. It should be what you can contribute.

Youth is Africa’s greatest resource. We all owe it to the youth generations before us who through their bravery and commitment to the cause of our youth ensured that the youth agenda occupies centre stage in our nation’s developmental agenda. The sacrifices of the ‘70s generation and many others that followed in their footsteps must inspire us in advancing youth development. PF