Friday, March 8, 2013

Africa's Future: Uganda's fears

New Vision Uganda reports

African nations cautioned against alienating youths

KAMPALA - African countries excluding younger people from programs tailored to the socio-economic transformation of their societies are sitting on a time bomb, Africa Peer Review Mechanism’s Prof. Okon Uya Edet has warned.

A member of APRM’s panel of eminent persons in charge of Uganda, Okon contends that disaffected young people have proved to be the main engine of violence in countries that have endured bouts of civil unrest.

Actually I don't agree with that at all. The main engine of violence has invariably the regime that young people have been objecting to. In many place that have endured civil unrest the young people are just another section of society adding to the voice of protest. Tunisia stands as a great example

" At the heart of the Arab Spring was a disgruntled youth class seeking democratic representation and economic participation. Remember Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor whose self-immolation launched the uprisings? He didn’t set himself ablaze because he had a smart phone. His self-immolation was his last desperate attempt to bring attention to his economic exclusion. His peers in the region sympathized and, almost overnight, Tunisia and the political landscape of most of Northern Africa changed. It was a signal that Africa’s ruling class was under siege."

“Governance is Africa’s biggest problem and until it’s fixed, Africa will not achieve viable socio-economic transformation of its people,” Okon told journalists on Thursday at Media Center.

The real governance problem Africa faces is that its leaders seem to believe they were born to rule for life. Presidential term limits would go along way to fixing that problem. Africa more so than any other continent has far to many Crocodiles.

If ever there was a demographic equivalent to the Marianas Trench, it is the chasm between Africa’s median age and that of its rulers. According to the Population Reference Bureau, 41 per cent of Africa’s billion citizens are under the age of 15. There are almost as many youth on the continent as the combined population of Canada, United States and Mexico. In all, a staggering 70 per cent of the population is under 30.

The leaders, however, almost all fall within oldest 3 per cent of Africa’s population, those over the age of 65. Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe (88) and Kenya’s Mwai Kibaki (80) are among the many leaders who are defying the continent’s average life expectancy of 58.

His emphasis was clear: You cannot structure development programs without putting youths into account.

Nor can you structure development programmes without taking into consideration the venality, corruption and greed of the majority of those who are in roles of political leadership in Africa.

“Youths who feel disconnected from their governments consider them alien institutions whose property is only fit for destruction at the slightest provocation,” he explained.

On Saturday, ARPM marks its 10th anniversary.

With an estimated 34 million people, Uganda has a young and fast growing population which State Minister for Planning and Economic Monitoring, Matia Kasaija, conceded is “a double edged sword”.

Only if Uganda chooses it to be a double edged sword. Getting rid of the corruption that seems to emanate from the office of the PM would be a good start. The truth is Uganda has an amazing opportunity to become one of Africa's leading nations short term and longer term the world is quite possibly the oyster of the people of Uganda. 

He, however, ruled out plans by the state to regulate the number of children individuals can have, saying “Uganda can still accommodate more people.”

Well that at least is somewhat of a relief. If the Ugandan State goes down that road then it will certainly fail. Freedom must be Uganda's top priority. Education should be next.

Uganda tomorrow joins 33 other African countries to mark APRM day under the theme: APRM working for the peoples of Africa.

Exactly a decade ago, on March 9 2003, APRM was agreed upon by member countries of the African Union as an instrument of self-monitoring with the aim of deepening democracy.

There is clearly a long way to go.

Uganda was last peer-reviewed in 2008 in the Egyptian Mediterranean city of Sharm el Sheikh.

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