Youth from several African countries have said the continent is facing a leadership crisis because many governments are not committed to providing an enabling environment and policies for youth to meaningfully participate in leadership.
During a session of the 4th Commonwealth Youth Parliament at the parliamentary chambers in Kampala on Wednesday, many youth speakers said they are ready to take on the leadership mantle if given chance.
Mr Abubaker Khalifa Usman from Nigeria urged governments to emulate Nigeria, which passed a law that allows youth aged 25 to contest for any elective position.
“Uganda has tried in promoting youth leadership through the five youth MPs but this is not enough. Let us get our governments to give youth more space to lead Africa,” said Mr Usman.
Mr David Milamba from Malawi also cited an example of Australia which voted a 22-year-old a senator and Kenya voted a 23-year-old as a Member of Parliament.
“Those leaders who have over stayed in power should know that their time is up,” said Mr Milamba.
The youth were debating on a motion, “Harnessing the youth in leadership; How can young people play a more transformational role in policies and leadership”.
Ms Hellen Bariki Mushi from Tanzania encouraged African leaders to emulate former South African President Nelson Mandela, who she said set a footprint in transformational leadership while encouraging young people across the world to participate in leadership
“Governments should enhance the leadership capacities of youth by identifying and nurturing them instead of encouraging old people to hold onto power,” said Ms Mushi.
Thalente Ndebele from South Africa advised governments to review their policies and laws to allow more youth to occupy higher positions of influence since they are the majority.
“Youths should be allowed to be ministers and young women should particularly be encouraged to take up such positions. Young people are ready and willing to lead, we only need space,” said Ndebele.
Hamis Saidi from Tanzania noted the importance of succession plans, which target young people.
“Youths should be given opportunities to participate in policy development as a way of preparing them to take up leadership,” said Saidi.
Prince Matshwarakgole from Botswana warned on discrimination against youth with disabilities, saying Africa will not develop if the disabled youth are not involved in all programmes.
“In the next Commonwealth Youth Parliament, I would like to see increased representation of youth with disabilities,” said Matshwarakgole.
Other youth, however, noted the need for attitude change among young people, saying negative attitude has stopped some from becoming leaders.
“You need to show your governments that you love your countries and offer yourselves for elections while participating in election of other leaders,” said Pamela Abito.
Ms Maria Natabi from Uganda challenged youth to use the available platforms to play a transformational role in leadership.
“We should use the existing students’ movement platforms to advance our agenda, but first we need to develop long term clear agenda because without an agenda, we cannot cause any transformation,” said Ms Natabi.
The Fourth Commonwealth Youth Parliament, which is being hosted by the Parliament of Uganda, started on April 14 and has attracted over 200 delegates from all the 19 common wealth African countries, including Tanzania, South Africa, Nigeria, Mauritius, Malawi, Zambia, Uganda, Kenya and others.
The meeting is held under the theme ‘Securing a better future for Africa: Role of the Youth’ was officially opened today at Hotel Africana.
The meeting, which ends on Thursday, is to inform the agenda of the regional conference to be held in Botswana in August.