Since the 1980s when mobile phone otherwise known as cell phone, made an in-road into the market and became very popular in developed nations, its spread has been a blessing to all manners of people across gender, race and age. Even at the time, the number of cell phones in the world was a mere 11.2 million- just two phones per 1,000. According to the United Nations, as at 2010, mobile phone users hit 5 billion. Thus, by 2011 the 5 billion would have added one or two million when many people in remote and distant places owning cell phones, with over 1,000 customers added every minute, while the world population currently stands at 6.94 billion.
The late 1990s and early 2000s witnessed the upsurge in mobile phone ownership; and saw telecoms companies rushing to telecoms-virgin lands of Third World countries with their large populations, whereas global capitalism finds new markets. There is hardly any country, even in Third World nations where people are struggling to make ends meet; there are many competing telecoms companies doing the business of ‘connecting people to people, people to business, business to business; and one family member with the other, as well as friends. According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the growth of telecommunications in the developing world is driven by the use of the phone for mobile banking, and health services. While many farmers use their mobile phone to sell the farm produce. Be that as it seem, more people in developing nations use their mobile for friendship and family contact than for business.
Moreover, the arrival of 3G technology fitted into smart-phones, Black Berry and i-phones have made the internet also available at a punch on consumers’ phone pad or screen. This is fast gaining currency among young and mobile population, and the working-class with higher preference for the much-talk-about popular social network sites such as Facebook, Twitters, Netlog, Tagged etc. Telecoms operation has open a wide array of opportunities!
Majority of the new users, about 59 percent, are in developing countries where cell phones are the first telecommunications technology in history to have more users there than in the developed world, according to the Washington Post. This exponential rise in cell phone users has simplify how businesses are conducted, reduce travel time/cost and improve the level contact among many persons.
All the same, while the spread of cell phone is commendable, especially for the aforementioned reasons and many more; cell phone has side –effects that users must be wary of besides enjoying the best opportunities and access it gives them. For instance, there is a debate (research-based), as to whether or not cell phone use has a strong relationship with cancer. Proponents of the argument like Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (an appendage of the National Institutes of Health), reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), that cell phone’s electromagnetic radiation can lead to certain changes in the brain activity, since then there has been apprehension that the oomph from the cell phone can cause cancer. Energy emitted from cell phone, called radio-frequency energy, is a form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation.
Some researchers from the International Agency for Cancer on Research (IACR) added its voice to support the JAMA‘s position in its separate publication, though they later debunked the claim, yet IACR has “classified cell-phone-radiation exposure to be ‘possibly carcinogenic to humans”. The research further asserted that even if there is no link, there is “…and increased risk of glioma and malignant types of brain cancer in association with wireless-phone use”. Glioma is a common type of brain tumour that is always linked with the ear. Other cancer researchers have opposed these findings as they posited that cell phone use has no relationship with cancer.
There is another strain of argument that is rife- the scratch card. A friend sent it to my mail box quoting a group of researchers, from the US had confirmed; that the silver coating covering recharge cards or refill voucher from telecommunications companies also causes cancer. The coating contains silver nitro oxide which causes skin cancer. Researchers have reservation for this revelation as well. This dimension is introduced because millions of phone users scratch the silver coating off with their nails. And the propensity that people who use their finger nails to scrape off the covering and do not wash their hands with soap afterwards is very high.
In addition, a more striking research finding on the effects of cell phone is the lowing of sperm-counts in male- which might lead to impotence in men. A report in the Journal of Andrology entitled ‘Cellular phone and male infertility” says using a cell phone can decrease the quality and quantity of a man’s sperm if men stay on the phone more than four hours a day. The report further warns that children, adolescents, young adults and especially pregnant women should take precaution and avoid keeping phone close to reproductive organs, in addition to their heads. These parts of the body are highly sensitive to electromagnetic radiation coming from cell phone, the report concluded. Besides, there is a link between radio frequency energy from cell and fire when it comes in contact with gas, hence people are always warned to have their cell phones turn-off in gas/petrol stations or fuel dumps. Yet, people make and receive in gas/petrol stations
One begins to wonder why almost everything about cell phone is cancer-related. Like the case of HIV/AIDS since in 1980s, the interconnectedness between frequent cell phone use and cancer is still a subject of debate, because it is a puzzle that can only be solved by scientists working on cancer and those developing telecoms soft-wares that would not compromise the user’s health. While it remains so, there is need for cell phone users to take precaution through the following ways.
One, always keep your phone away from your body, especially your head. By doing this, you protect vital organs of the body from the electromagnetic emission. Men should avoid putting cell phone in the thigh-pocket or breast-pocket, instead make use of leather-case and stripe to belt. Ladies can use their hand-bag. Among market women, cell phones are kept in their bra. This is very dangerous! If cell phones could cause cancer to the brain because of their proximity to the ear when in use, how much more lady’s br***t?
Two, the habit of using ear-piece in cell phone conversation must be nurtured. The quality of ear-piece to be used is another issue to grapple with here. This is because, ear-piece that serves as antenna to the phone while playing radio still transmit the emission from the cell phone no matter how distant the cell phone is from your body. Therefore, quality ear-piece with filter is most likely to be the safest. When playing radio on your phone, the hands-free or loudspeaker mode could be activated.
Three, do not use your cell phone as your alarm by your head on your bed’s side. Provided the cell phone is not switch-off radiation still travels, not only when your make/receive calls. Get a standard alarm that will save you from the hazard of keeping your phone by your head- remember the research-based debate of brain cancer and cell phone?
Four, spend less time on the phone at one time, because if for anything, the frequency of contact with the cell phone is the root cause of the linkage. Many young people stay up and spend their nightly hours in phone conversations just because such calls (dubiously call ‘happy hours’) are free from some telecom operators. I think people engage because of weak economic situation. So, make short calls and always send text messages, or at best, use good quality ear-piece with filter to avert body contact.
Lastly, do not scratch you recharge card with your finger nails. Always encourage your vendors to get a spatula-like object to peel-off the silver covering concealing the card’s secret pin whenever you want to recharge. And always obey signs that prohibit cell phone use in gas/petrol stations, fuel dumps, hospitals etc. Do not risk your life with your cell phone!
Muammar Gaddafi is on the run for his life which had a ransom of $1.67million, placed on his head by the Libya rebel’s National Transition Council (NTC) led by Mustafa Abdul Jalil. One wonders why the maximum ruler should take such demeaning position in spite of his ‘big mouth’ while the rebellion has lasted. Even few days ago while he admitted that his decision to leave his compound was a ‘tactical move’, but urged his shrinking loyalists to cleanse the streets of the ‘traitors, infidels and rats’, and said he had ‘been out a bit in Tripoli discreetly, without being seen’, he boasted in an audio message.
Libya’s case could be likened to the scenario that took place in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Despite Saddam’s fierce opposition and recalcitrant resistance, he was smothered along with his two sons like cockroaches. While Saddam is dead, the aftermath of the invasion still hunts the Western powers, especially the US, and set the country on an unending civil conflict. The Afghanistan’s case is not different. Will great lessons be learned from these?
Libya under the watchful eyes of Gaddafi , the last six months have been an intransigent enigma for Libyans, the continent of Africa and the world. With thousands of lives lost and property worth millions of dollars destroyed, Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya palatial compound is now under the firm control of the rebels; the end-game is sure in matters of days. The rebels’ invasion of Tripoli would not have been possible if not for NATO’s continuous air-bombardments. A move African Union went against.
In the new days ahead of Libya, from the examples currently playing out in Iraq, Afghanistan and, recently Egypt, no one is in doubt as to what the situation will be like when the National Transition Council (NTC), finally takes-over the reign of power. But what remains to be known is who and who will be in charge of Libya after Gaddafi. The rebels seem to be united right now. Some of the key men in their camp were formerly for Gaddafi as many more are from different tribes. Where would their loyalty lies when they finally share power among themselves as the black gold and other robust business interests that were under the exclusive control of Maummar Gaddafi are at stake? The conjecture should not also be ruled out that most of the rebel fighters are mercenaries. What happens to them afterward? Who would sponsor the rebuilding of Libya in entirety? Would NATO member nations be united in the reconstruction efforts as they are in the air-bombardment? The case of Afghanistan and Iraq should give the world some notable insights of what is to come in Libya in the unfolding days, weeks or months depending when the vestiges of Gaddafi’s empire are gone.
The rebels are being backed by the Allied power in providing logistics, with few African countries in solidarity, but not the African Union (AU). There are more questions than answers why African Union (AU), the continental body that oversees African nations’ issues had not put its weight behind the NTL government. The continent’s leaders are divided over Gaddafi’s forceful removal from office after 41 years of tyrannical rule; hence the body could not make a supporting statement other than fronting for Gaddafi partly because of his usual generosity in bank-rolling the union’s activities in the good old days . If AU stays mute, would it stops the rebels from forming a legitimate government that shall take Libya from the ruins? If AU stays away from the rebuilding process which is in sight, would it break ties with Libya and the UN? Whatever AU’s position is in the next few days, there will be more unexpected dramatic scenes from Tripoli, being directed by the Western powers.
Whenever Africa name is mentioned, it’s either for hunger, conflict, corruption, underdevelopment or poverty. All these are clear manifestations of social dislocation that characterized almost all the continent’s countries, with the exception of South Africa and Botswana. The continent is blessed with abundant human and natural resources. It is the new bride for foreign investors as the ‘mad rush’ by Eastern and Western strongest economies have shown in the last one decade. But one wonders whether foreign investments would translate into abundance of food, cessation of conflict, curtail corruption, bring about development or reduce poverty. Foreign aids, borrowing as well assistance have not really changed anything in the lives of the people in Africa. Rather they are sowing the seed of the problems that bedeviled the continent.
Most of the conflict situations in Africa are being caused by the foreign investors’ mismanagement of resources in connivance with foreign investors who derive pleasure from playing one party against the other in their dealings with the local people. Mismanagement gives way to marginalization which fester poverty and hunger – cocksure channels to civil conflict. The so called foreign investors procure arms for factionalized groups to kill themselves, making these countries unstable and further underdeveloped. Yet, they negotiate peace deal for them later. But, does these cease-fires cum peace agreements for the interest of the people or for the invetsors’?
It leaves no one in doubt that land deals or concessions between foreign investors and the local people have always been very unfavorable to the latter with little or no long-term benefits. The same thing goes for mining or oil exploration deals/licenses as the examples of Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Kenya, Liberia etc. have demonstrated. How long will it takes the government of African countries to learn that it is not worth these deals where they cede larger percentage of into foreigner hands?
One of the basic lies that cajole African leaders into these empty deals is the promise of job creation for their teeming unemployed young population and the vain-gain foreign direct investment (fdi) their countries stand to benefit. From experiences round the whole continent, the local people mainly end up in dead-end odd jobs with meager monthly take-home pay that cannot take any of them home. This has always led to in-work poverty among the very few who work with them. Workers in these so called multinational corporations work under severe inhuman conditions.
Juicy job openings are the exclusive reserves of the foreign experts who receive whooping sum as salary, as they live in sheer affluence in tastily furnished and well-secured apartments and ride in expensive jeeps, while the local people trek their way to and fro their work stations, or scramble for tattered and rickety taxis/motor-bikes that are hardly available. In most companies they spend more time in resolving labor-management impasse than they devout to business activities either due to pay increments or better conditions of service, or non-payment of salary.
The governments of African countries can plough the foreign borrowings and assistance into the same kind of business ventures and manage them with foreign experts in their employment, to take charge and transfer knowledge and skills to the local people. What stops the government from investing in the mining of, say, iron ore or the exploration of crude oil or planting and running cash crops farms? Part of the problem has been personal interest over public interests.
Most of these government officials, especially legislators who collect jumble pay in the name of salaries and allowances, while the people they represent, live in abject poverty; negotiate and corner percentage deals for themselves as kick-backs. They pass laws that give dubious foreign investors the leverage to operate with impunity and pay scanty attention to best labor and environmental practices that engender sustainable development.
Certainly, the development the continent of Africa yearns for would hardly come from outside if the people are not ready. Just few things the government and people of the continent need to do and the development will drive hunger, poverty, conflict, underdevelopment and corruption underground. One, our orientation must change from viewing development as always coming from outside. This is why all the big economic policies from the World Bank (WB), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other foreign initiated bodies have repeatedly failed. Two, our government must sign concession deals or issue exploration licenses that have long-term benefits to the people not for themselves. This they can do by making these investors adhere to responsive labor issues that have do with good minimum wage and good working condition as well sustaining the environment they carry out their operations.
Times have changed, land lease should attract handsome amount of money and good employment prospects for those leasing their lands. Three, government can set up ventures to tap their resources with foreign technical know-how that would be transfer later. When national governments own and run the companies with similar interest as the foreign ones, there will be keen completion and plentiful job opportunities. Five, national governments must make it a priority to develop their infrastructure especially good network of roads/rail system and electricity. Four, the people must learn to save for private investments in order to build a middle income group that compel development from within.
Africa has a great future! The future cannot come if we continue the way we do things right now. The kind of development we see in other countries cannot take the same trend in our case. If it is not home-grown, it will be not be our own and the few who have access to government will not be committed to the nation’s development well-being. Only when Africans are ready to embrace the change from within that they can conquer all the negative things the continent is being associated with.
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The two-wheeler motor commonly called ‘Okada’ in Ghana, Benin and some parts of Nigeria, Pehn-pehn in Liberia, has become a veritable means of transportation in major cities of most West African countries. Its presence in the roads of these nations’ cities has been more of a problem than a solution to the ailing transportation problems.
Many have argued that Okada or Pehn-pehn business has provide jobs in large measure to most of the teeming once jobless youths, it has make ease the accessibility of some of the areas that have bad roads as the deplorable state of roads is a recurrent feature of these countries; it has aid fast and quick movement during chaotic traffic situation, it creates good access to health-care and market where cars are in short supply and majority could not afford the cost of renting a car for such emergency etc. These are some of the reasons, major portion of the population in these countries strongly believe that the two-wheeler taxi is unavoidable and must remain in our cities to ease the excruciating pain people go through for hours waiting for taxi and buses that are few.
Contrastingly, the two-wheeler taxi irrespective of the above plausible reasons why we need it on our roads, it has become ready-made two-wheeler coffin that convey people to their early grave almost every second in these cities. No day passes by that this mode of transportation does not send someone to the orthopedic ward of a hospital. For instance, in Igbobi hospital in Lagos, Nigeria, accident cases involving motor-bike are too overwhelming. The case is not different in John F. Kennedy memorial hospital in Monrovia Liberia, the case is not opposite for major hospitals in Togo,Cameroun,Benin among others. Meanwhile, the presence of motor-bike has cascaded the spate of crime in all of these cities. Bike riders have constituted themselves into hoodlums who terrorize their innocent victims as they snatch hand-bags, that contained valuable items, jerk cell phones while they speed past their unsuspecting victims; they are well-known for stealing car battery/sound-system. They are also notorious for car-jacking and many more deadly criminal activities. Yet, governments in these countries have allowed the dangerous trade to flourish.
In Ghana for instance, the heat has been on that motor-bike cannot ply the country’s major cities partly because the National Road Safety Commission act do not make provision for the commercialization of motor-bike. Besides, in Abuja Nigeria, since 2007, the commercial use of ‘Okada’ has been prohibited. Other states in this category are Port-Harcourt, Owerri and recently Maiduguri (due to the activities of the Islamic sect insurgent group ‘Boko Haram’). The reason is not only to reduce crime and accident, but also for free flow of traffic. Most of these riders do not obey traffic signs and rules; they meander and wander at neck-breaking speed, from the right side of the road to the wrong without recourse to other roads users. They are known for over-taking from the driver’s blind-spot thus causing avoiding collision. They hit their fellow riders and cars from all sides, they smack your break-light and they will beg and say ‘sorry’. More dangerously, they relish in drinking local gin than eating food before they enter road to pick passengers.
Studies have shown repeatedly that motor-bike passengers are 36 times more likely to get involved in an accident and die or injured than those in a car. This is because nothing protects them and their passengers while they ride in deadly speed. Moreover, they are always in a hurry to God knows destination. In the mind of bike-riders, the passengers’ seat on the bike would have been fitted for five or six passengers instead of one, as they overload the bike from the tank up to the iron-tail-guard. Sometimes, some people crammed the whole family members- mother, father, and their children in on motor-bike. Sordid enough, bike men often time ignore safety measures such as the wearing of crash-helmet to protect their head and that of the passengers. Even at the peak of rainy season in West African region, very few of them go about their business with rain-coats for themselves and their passengers- there is health hazard someone may say! Further, research conducted by the International Journal of Impotence Research, has also demonstrated that vibrations from motor-bike engine have damaging effect on the nerves of the penis. Do they have enough education on this in order to take precaution?
Mean time, we may find it difficult to do without motor-bikes in our roads in major cities, but does it worth the prize our people pay daily with their lives, or say, some become physically challenged over-night from motor-bike crashes? The proliferation of motor-bikes in these countries clearly showcases random government failure to address transportation problems facing them, as well as the chronic unemployment imbroglio. Weak transport infrastructure in the guise of inefficient management that characterized the public sphere is what gives teeth to these bike riders. May be is because they have formed a formidable mass, as they are used by political leaders for election to augment votes or use them to stall elections or hijack ballot boxes. The examples of France, US and the UK, have shown that restricting motor-bike to private use or courier services and investing heavily in the transport sector would provide more employment opportunities than risking people’s lives. Will it be bad if governments in these countries put money into a body that would buy taxis and give them out to these same bike riders, give them proper orientation in recognized driving schools and they pay back on installment basis and remove these death-traps from our major roads?
Politics is a neutral game anchored in the body polity of political parties which serve as the platforms upon which political aspirants seeking for elective positions canvass for the support of the electorate. Therefore, political parties must be viable in terms of sound-minded men and women who are politically schooled in the game of politics. They ought to be guided by rules that are not partial and fair to all, robust political culture, devoid of grandstand personalities who exude an air of personal aggrandizement, ethnically balanced, religiously unprejudiced, as well as a near-perfect structure that train and breed future leaders.
But political parties in many African countries since their independence have been reduced to mere quasi family organizations, vendetta-spots, money-making machines for hungry and upstart politicians and surrogate aspirants. Besides, they lack internal democracy- the hallmark of party politics and, they are ethnically and religiously fragmented and ideologically divided with no clue for the progress of the society. These parties are built around an individual either because he is financially empowered or s/she is charismatic. They thrive in ethnic savor and most times lack national outlook and they are not institutionalized. They run party’s activities with thugs and pugilists in a macho-manner. As such, they push parochial agenda and programs, manipulate positions for wives and children and friends in an inheritance fashion, betray financially less-privileged candidates; while favoritism rather meritocracy, takes the driver’s seat.
The fallouts of lack of internal democracy in the conduct of political party’s affairs had led to the imposition of unpopular candidates on the electorate and the state in case they win elections, internal squabbles and political tension in the body polity. All these have grave implications for development. Above all, they undermine the strength of the party; breed unspoken animosity and breaks-away, cross-carpeting and in most cases make the party profoundly unpopular in strongholds of unsatisfied actors.
Meanwhile this also creates an avenue for the dominant party to lose elections. Break-away further leads to the formation of new smaller political parties as alternatives. Though, multi-party politics is robust and deepens democracy the world over, in Africa it has become the harbinger of ethnic tension and post-election violence. The reason being aggrieved political defectors erroneously believe they must win elections at all costs even before they are conducted. They threaten fire and brimstones on how best they would make their countries ungovernable if elections (yet to be conducted) results are not in their favor. Good omen for development?
Political parties these days hardly come up with viable options for development in their manifestos as they lack well-rounded ideology. The only program they always rehearse is how they will stamp-out corruption and provide modern infrastructure and eradicate poverty. Nothing more! This is because the caliber of people at the helms of affairs is self-serving and they are either looking for political appointments or contracts. So, what we have in Africa are political dealers who jump into the party’s executive race to deal on party’s juicy opportunities to further personal interest. They end up with candidates who are corruption driven, unable to deliver on fake fabulous electioneering promises. These candidates would not come back to their primary constituencies, except another electioneering calendar year is near. What an affront on the electorate.
It is pertinent to know that the future development of any country practicing democracy rests on the shoulders of political parties that have strong development program which embraces corrupt-free political actors, adhere to rules and subject all party players to the same part ethics, adhere to the guiding principle of election rather than selection in party primaries, discipline any act of real misconducts, no matter whose horse is gored. When political parties fail in their duty to educate and bring forth trust-worthy and popular candidates for elections, they will not only be bashed in the process, they are laying the foundation for future demise of the parties, while they inadvertently hold their country’s development to hurtful underdevelopment.
If you like this article, I’d recommend my book “If I Was Famous, I’d Have a Lot to Say”
The situation in Somalia calls for reflection. It demands from other African countries, the need to be proactive in their planning process. No one could basically tell why the problem seems a hydra-headed one: from piracy to militancy, kidnapping, insurgency and, now the greatest of all- famine that has been sacking the two regions in the South Central Somalia. Media report has it that over 12,000 persons have been displaced from their homes to the nation’s capital-Mogadishu, as many more thousands are spewing-out to neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia without food and water and transportation. And the Transitional government and the world stand-still and helpless because Al-Shabab, Somalia’s most fearsome and deadliest insurgent group remained on the prowl.
Unfortunately, as the people are fleeing the famine region, they are been assaulted and the women are been raped while children die in their thousands! According to the UN, the scourge may in no distant time spread to other regions if nothing is done urgently to arrest the situation by wealthy nations and other aids agencies. Thus, the world supra body has declared famine in Somalia after about 19 years. Besides, Mr. J.J Rawlings, the AU representation has declared that if we do not act urgently, Africa would have many children to bury in the ensuing weeks. Somalians are trekking kilometers upon kilometers, escaping the food shortage in their land. Who is to blame for the severity of the food shortage?
While the situation is blamed on nature, its most complex dimension is hinged on the Al-Shabab militant group that had been at war with the Transition government since 1992. Consequent upon this, there has been no government, no state police, no functional infrastructure and other basic necessities that make life meaning to citizens. The Al-Shabab militants’ strongholds are the worse-hit regions because they have barred food supplies from NGOs into these regions few years ago while they continue their heinous activities. Their illicit operations in the sea coast of Somalia has been hindering smooth movement of vessels and the crew men that have attracted international attention in the last two decades, yet the situation is more worrisome now that the food shortage is being heightened by the same group which had blocked the innocent population’s access to food supplies. Notwithstanding, the ban Al-Shabab has lifted on the food agencies and NGOs is tenuous and not all-compassing. What is the guarantee that the group would not kidnap aid workers, and confiscate food as they are famished too?
Certainly, Somalia is a failed-state. It does not have the capacity to curtail the situation all alone. The United Nations, other donor agencies have been doing their best to salvage the condition by making food and water available to the famished population in Mogadishu and those in refugee camps in Kenya. Nevertheless, many more are left stranded in remote areas. What are the other countries doing to help? Horrible footages of malnourished and dead children from Somalia are terrible enough to spur other African nations into action to help their dying neighbor. It is not about waiting for the world to take a step first. They must act now. The African Union (AU) must live up to its role as an umbrella body which oversees activities of its constituent members. Having their representative in the person of the former president of Ghana, Mr. J.J. Rawlings is not enough. There is need for profound empowerment.
Essentially, the whole of East Africa is susceptible to the same scenario playing out in Somalia. The Somalia’s example should prompt their neighboring nations to take proactive and preemptive measures to tackle the situation head-on. They must not play the lie-and-wait game. Planning for food sufficiency through new technological innovations, making use of the natural resources and embracing good governance would go a long way to put off the imminent problem. While it is appreciated that the US and UN, have done much to bring peace to Somalia particularly, and other African nations; they could do more by assisting in the best innovative ways to tackle the Al-Shabab extremists group, so that Somalia can assume the status of a responsible nation- state with the capability to respond to its tasks as a sovereign nation that would require the least of assistance from other nations.
In the last week’s edition of this column, we rummaged over first two of the resolutions of the African Union 17th ordinary Session in Malabo, Guinea, that dwelled on the employment of youths and creating an avenue for vocational training in the areas of ICT and agriculture. In this concluding part, we shall take a critical look at resolutions three, four and five, that pertain to the provision of adequate resources for youth agenda cum funding of the Pan African Youth Union, and organizing training summit at the middle of every year for youth volunteers, and subsequent posting within the region possibly to serve as volunteers on the bill of the African Union.
African resources have been frittered away to foreign lands for non-economic activities, that had left the continent worse-off than it were in the last 50 years. Each dying year witnesses the pomp and pageantry of expensive Independence celebration ceremonies round the continent, but they celebrate underdevelopment and poverty and dwindling economies. We often hear stories of the ‘good old days’ of the seventies and early eighties, when young graduates had their job placement before they write their final examinations. Civil servants could buy new cars with ease, but what we have today is an array of over-used cars that are only fit for scraps in developed countries, running in African major cities partly because people cannot afford the cost of new ones. What happens to these jobs and new cars? Why are the industries closing shops as the universities churn out thousands of young graduates into the already over-blotted labor market? Does that portend a good future for the present generation, if past years are better than now? This is the bane of brain-drain syndrome plaguing the continent. African leaders must wake up to their responsibilities and provide purposeful leadership in the area of economic empowerment for their young population.
I keep wondering why these leaders have not seen it fit to empower their young population over the years. The scenario has been build-up factions that will empower the youth with guns to sack the entire citizenry and create huge refugee population in order for them to be political saviors. One of the basic problems of youth in Africa is lack of access to quality education. In places where schools are available, young people there do not see the need to go to school as it takes a long time to reap its dividends because the value for ‘quick wealth without labor’ is on the increase. Those who have the gusto and drive to acquire education/skills do not have the financial capacity due to chronic poverty ranging them, as the government care a little less. Moreover, skill acquisition centers that would have been the alternative mode for equipping the youth with technical and entrepreneurial skills are nowhere to be found. Thus, young people are left with no plausible option than to engage in all kinds of unwholesome activities that tend to undermine the moral fabric of their societies just to make ends meet. The example of pockets of insurgent groups in various parts of the continent is a clear case at point, each seeking to be heard depending on what the grievances are, at the expense of civilian casualties.
The Pan African Youth Union has more or less been left moribund for years. Why is it now the leaders deem it fit to dust it up from the shelve in the organization’s archive to give it a new look? African youths are despondent and frustrated because they have been denied opportunity for empowerment economically and politically for the past fifty years. Organizing youth summit in every June/July to train youth volunteers is not a bad idea, but do they have the political will to make it real? How far would the leaders go to move the proposal from paper to practical action? Do all the countries that signed that pact have the capability to absorb these young volunteers (as proposed by the AU), into their economy to participate in the program marshaled out considering the volatile nature of many of these countries? Which country would allow her young people to be sent to a place like Somalia or the DRC? Would this attempt not be another pipeline for the siphoning of public funds without tangible results? Your guess is as good as mine!
Truly, there is nothing nobler than planning for younger generation by their leaders. Nonetheless, the abhorrence of youth by some of these leaders make the whole resolution looks as if that summit in Malabo, was another gathering for our ever- complacent leaders who gather to drink expensive wine, lodge in five-star hotels with tax payers’ money, and consolidate on their business links and forget the plight of their suffering masses back home. Future studies have demonstrated that equipping young people with profound strategies for the unknown is the best way to galvanize any country into prosperity. Until the right atmosphere free of internal conflict, youth unemployment, hunger, militancy and poverty is created in Africa by the leaders; the impossibility of incessant youths’ unrest in the forms of violent protests and demonstrations would continue to be a mirage.
The African Union (AU) has just concluded its 17th Ordinary Session in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea with the theme ‘Accelerating Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development’. It seems the leaders this time wanted to chart a new direction for the continent’s young people. Meanwhile various matters of importance such as NATO’s bombardment of Libya and Ghaddafi ICC’s arrest warrant cum the recognition of Africa’s newest state of Southern Sudan were discussed; they subsumed them under that theme to demonstrate to African youths that they have their interest at heart with some selected youths in attendance.
With spectacular elegance to youth’s case file, they resolved:
- That all Member States should advance the youth agenda and adopt policies and mechanisms towards the creation of safe, decent and competitive employment opportunities by accelerating the implementation of the Youth Decade Plan of Action (2009-2018) and the Ouagadougou 2004 Plan of Action on Employment Promotion and Poverty Alleviation;
- That the Commission in collaboration with its partners should elaborate a Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) framework, addressing specifically the domains of Agriculture and ICT, while accelerating the implementation of the Youth Decade Plan of Action
- That Member States provide to the Commission adequate resources for the advancement of the Youth Agenda, including the funding of the Pan African Youth Union;
- to organize on the margins of every June/July Summit a training program for the Youth Volunteers,
- That all trained Young Volunteers should be deployed as soon as possible after their training including placement in the AU organs and the Regional Economic Communities as part of capacity building for young professionals.
A critical look at the resolutions set above by African leaders; depict their collective resolve to solving myriad of problems facing young people in the continent. African youths have for too long been at the receiving end of the leadership failure for decades and their pent-up feeling was let loose in the Arab Spring uprising that caused politico-economic upheaval in the Maghreb states, and the spill-over effect being felt in other parts of the continent. Thanks to the social network sites such as Facebook and Twitters, that linked up young people of varied backgrounds for a collective action. One of the most glaring problems of African youth is unemployment. Taking a cue from the first point of the resolutions, since 2009, how many jobs have these leaders created in their respective countries in consonant with the Youth Decade Plan of Action (YDPA) that has a decade life-span? What is the poverty reduction rate in their different countries since they adopted the Ouagdougou 2004 Plan of Action? I think the hitches that bedeviled the Lagos Plan of Action of the 1980s still persist. Practical realities in many African countries are opposed to the grand orthodoxies contained in their bulletins.
Reiteration of this particular issue pertaining to employment assume prominence in the just concluded summit because Abdulaziz, the Tunisian young man set himself alight having been frustrated and ill-treated by the police- an action that sparked off violence that crumbled the about two decades of iron-fist leadership of Ben Ali. The case of Egypt was not different which toppled Mubarak’s three decades of interrupted autocratic regime. It is upon this fear that they quickly wanted to handle the issue of employment generation and poverty reduction via creating employment opportunities. So, if they have these plans of actions in the past years, why have they not implemented them until there is problem that has the propensity to tumble their governments? I see that resolution number one as a deterrent measure to massage the ego of African youths to stay away from the Tunisia-Egypt-Libya kind of unrest. They only paid lip-service to the process as majority of the leaders do not have a clear-cut program that would enhance the real implementation the YDPA.
Moreover, the claim they laid to the enhancement of technical training for youth in the specified areas of Agriculture and Information Communication Technology (ICT) is not something new. No doubt technical training for the young people would help immensely in building middle-level man-power for development couple with requisite ICT skills. The same is true for agriculture. In many of these countries, how many technical colleges/training schools can boast of the state-of-the-art equipment as well as functional computers with internet access? Again how many government farms do they have, either to provide cash crops for export, or grow staple food to stem the rate of hunger in the continent? Most of these countries rely heavily on the importation of staple food which has grave consequence whenever there is a ‘price shock’ at the international market.