Making the Case for Youth Leadership in Africa!

313 delegates, 512 Livestream viewers, 750 GooglePlus Hangout participants, 13 speakers, and 6 sponsors!

With the theme “Building Capacity for a New Generation: The Case for Youth Leadership in Africa”, the 2012 Oxford University Pan Africa Conference held on 5 May at the Wesley Memorial Hall, brought together over 300 students, entrepreneurs, activists, academics, and political and economic leaders from 51 different countries. We also had over 500 viewers watching the online Livestream, and hundreds more interacting with the speakers through the live Google Plus Hangout, and other social media outlets.

It was truly inspiring to see so many young people so passionate about working towards a shared vision in dealing with the rapidly evolving challenges of the century. If there was one theme however that came out time and again, it was the need for action. A shared vision will only be as good as the action that we take to make that vision a reality!

Below, enjoy my welcome address at the event, a view of some of the speakers and delegates, and some of the key issues discussed.

Welcome to the Oxford University Africa Society’s 2012 Pan-Africa Conference.

It is a great pleasure to host the conference here in Oxford, with its distinct heritage of training leaders for the past 800 years.  This year’s conference, “Building Capacity for a New Generation: The Case for Youth Leadership in Africa,” brings together students, entrepreneurs, activists, academics, and political and economic leaders from across Africa. That is what this conference is about: young leaders from around the world, gathered to discuss, debate, and learn from some of the most prominent African leaders of today.

The organizers of today’s conference, Oxford University Africa Society, which I am honoured to lead,  is the umbrella body for all African students at the University of Oxford. It seeks to provide a legitimate and strong voice within the University community to African students and others who are linked to the continent by way of ancestry, research, experience, or interest. The society is a platform for informed debates and stimulating events, and strives to create a sense of community among members.
The conference is part of a wider vision, “the Pan-Africa Project”, which seeks to provide an annual platform for all African students in the UK to reflect on mutual challenges and identify ways of promoting quality leadership and sustainable development in Africa. Our 2011 conference, ‘Pan-Africanism for a New Generation’, brought together scholars, activists and leaders, to interrogate the meaning of Pan-Africanism in the 21st century. The concept of Pan-Africanism is largely associated with independence struggles, having served as a unifying force against colonialism and as an important part of the United States civil rights movement. In the post-colonial period, Pan-Africanism has inspired a series of principles and themes guiding several policies and programmes across the continent that seek to provide an agenda in dealing with the particular challenges of the 21st century, such as the adverse impact of globalization, security, and climate change.

Africa faces many challenges. These challenges, in whatever sphere – whether political, economic, health, or environmental—represent a distinct opportunity for Africa’s young leaders to provoke a bold culture of change.  The world is already witness to some of this change.

Today we begin a new conversation. The African leaders gathered here represent more than people, languages, or geographical denominations.  They represent more than a global movement, or the transnational network of social, political, and business entrepreneurship. These leaders project the nascent hope that is transforming the continent. They reject the traditional themes that dominate discussions on Africa, and show, by their own achievements, the potential enormity of Africa’s human resources. We are honoured to have them with us here at Oxford.

But it is also important that we do not dwell in naïve optimism of the kind that just keeps talking without acting. Africa probably has too many think tanks and talk-tanks, what we need more of are do-thanks. At the same time we cannot afford debilitating pessimism, of the kind that keeps people hopeless, and rooted to the same spot. Today is about activating leadership.
Today, over 300 delegates originating from over 50 different countries are here. From Cape Town to Cairo, from Lagos to Luanda, From Swaziland and Switzerland. While thanking our sponsors, I ask you to  take this opportunity to learn from each other, to share knowledge with one another, and to strengthen our common ties.
I wish you an amazing conference.

Opening Keynote ; Building Capacity for a New Generation: The Case for Youth Leadership in Africa- by Vera Songwe- World Bank Country Director (for Senegal, Cape Verde, the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, and Mauritania)

Main Point: Africa has gone from transformational to transactional leaders. And now it is up to us to move towards a new kind of transformational leadership. We need to be able to pull young leaders together towards a shared vision and have a discussion about what the vision is that we’re looking for.

Afternoon keynote Beyond Political Rhetoric: Investing in Youth as an Economic Strategy- By Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria & 2011 Forbes Africa Person of the Year

Main Point: Resource-led growth does not translate into broad-based and sustainable wealth creation and is vulnerable because it is not driven by deliberate policy. If we do not change the structure of the banking system, then we cannot have real financial inclusion. We need to diversify revenue of government. Farmers must be taxed (they form about 40% of GDP), but we must therefore invest in infrastructure – building a social compact between state and citizen to support the farmers.


Closing keynote:  Building Sustainable Partnerships: Redefining the Future of Sino-African Business Relations, by He Liehui, Chairman, Touchroad International Holdings Group, China

Main Point: Africa and China, and indeed, the rest of the world, need to understand each other more. We need a relationship based on mutual respect. What is clear is that no one can save Africa without Africans’ involvement.

1st panel on Challenges and Opportunities for the Next Generation of African Leaders

Matthew Hassan Kukah, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Hadeel Ibrahim, Director of Strategy and External Relations, Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Kingwa Kamencu, Rhodes Scholar & Presidential Candidate, Republic of Kenya

Moderator: Amina Adewusi, Africa Economist, Standard Chartered Bank

Main Point: Youth are the greatest opportunity for the continent. We can turn the youth bulge into an asset, but we need a shared vision, and need to negotiate that vision. Governance is managing and mitigating risk. Leadership involves taking risk. The challenge is taking the path of good governance and taking necessary risks to sustain growth.

2nd  panel on Can Youth Change Politics in Africa?  

Arthur Mutambara, Deputy Prime Minister, Zimbabwe, Gbenga Sesan, Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, United Nations Committee of eLeaders on Youth and ICT, Mary Harper, Africa Editor, BBC World Service & Author of Getting Somalia Wrong? Faith, War & Hope in a Shattered State

Moderator: Stephanie Busari, Digital Producer, CNN International

Main Point: We need to encourage young people and young women in particular, to be engaged .The youth dividend will only be reaped if they have skills and a democratic mandate. Youth leadership needs to be encouraged early on. Regional and continental integration is fundamental to this. Need a strategy to achieve the vision.


3rd panel on Africa in a Globalized World; Fostering Youth Leadership Within & Across Borders

Patrick Awuah, Founder, Ashesi University, Ghana, TED Global Fellow, Tebogo Lefifi, Founder, Young African Professionals & Students, China, Madelle Kangha, Founder-Youths for Change, & Inaugural Class, African Leadership Academy

Moderator: Daniel Stone, Officer for the Oxford University Student Union and 2010 Top Black Student in the UK

 Main Point: Education is often narrow education, or rote education. Need emphasis on problem solving, broad perspectives and ethics. A small group of people really can change the world. Educating people and preparing them for a rewarding life is the best thing we can do.

The Africa-themed dinner banquet for Speakers, Sponsors & Select Participants held at the Divinity School, Oxford, a medieval building and the oldest surviving purpose-built building for university use. You can check out the tweets using the hashtag #OxAfr12 on Twitter or follow @oxfordafrica


About Idris Ayodeji Bello

Afropreneur & Partner, LoftyInc Ltd (Operators of the Wennovation Hub) Leading expert in deploying technology and innovation to drive public sector reforms and enabling good governance. Passionate about bringing about positive change in Africa through innovation and entrepreneurship!
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1 Response to Making the Case for Youth Leadership in Africa!

  1. Pingback: Connecting the Dots Backwards: Of Leptons, Quarks, and Afropreneurs | The Afropreneur – Idris Ayodeji Bello

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