By Jeffery Tram (@Jeffery_Tram)
With hashtags like #ENDSARS, #CONGOISBLEEDING and #SHUTITALLDOWN, social media is used as a tool to spread awareness of the injustices that are going on in Nigeria, Congo, and Namibia. What this demonstrates is that African youth are taking charge in defining the future of Africa.
Almost 60% of Africa’s population (2019) is under the age of 25, making Africa the
“Our leaders that are supposed to represent us show more allegiance to personal gain and power rather than the best interests of the African people,” says Siyanda Mohutsiwa.
Born in Eswatini and raised in Botswana, Mohutsiwa is a writer and public speaker who identifies as a pan-Africanist.
“Pan-Africanism is the rejection of the divide and conquer rule of colonial powers,” she says.
“Colonial countries divided the land into artificial borders, all for their own economic gain. Pan-Africanism seeks to reverse that by instilling within African youth the idea of a unified identity.”
In a continent filled with diverse identities, how can you find the commonality of an African identity without losing the unique distinctions of different cultures?
In 2015, Mohutsiwa created the hashtag #IfAfricaWasABar on Twitter to encourage Africans to speak their minds about each other in a satirical way. What she noticed is Africans can poke fun of the differences between nationalities, but there are actually more similarities among themselves than she originally thought. What was showcased in a satirical way could be reimagined in a pan-Africanist vision of a bright future for the African youth.
“A pan-Africanist recognizes and celebrates the differences, but understands that politically and economically, it is in our best interests to focus structurally on the similarities.”
In her TedTalk, she identifies that there are two types of pan-Africanism: political and social. Political pan-Africanism is based on institutions like the African Union, and how they bring African leaders together. However, Mohutsiwa does not believe these institutions can make meaningful change as there are leaders within who contributed to the problems that currently exist. This creates a cyclical issue of corruption.
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Mohutsiwa favours social pan-Africanism because it is an expansion of what is possible. This is where the power of African youth come in. It is the use of the technological advances of the present day to raise awareness of the issues that would normally go unnoticed around the world. It is also a way to proliferate African ideas and culture. For example, Afrobeats is a pan-Africanist success story.
Her TedTalk also mentions about how Black consciousness is a part of her identity.
Steve Biko, a South African anti-apartheid activist originated Black. It is a mental attitude for a Black person to understand the importance of fighting against the continuous servitude of the white institutions of power. Biko was murdered by the apartheid government, but he remains a symbol of defiance against racial injustice and oppression.
“Black consciousness is about putting your Black identity up at the centre of your own fate,” Mohutsiwa says.
With the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States, it has inspired more dialogue on injustices all over the world. It serves a blueprint of how social media can escalate movements that can pressure the institutions of power.
For the longest time, Africa’s reputation on the world stage, especially in western countries, is around ideas of instability, poverty, violence, and corruption. The African youth of today have more power than ever to change the discourse of Africa. The potential of Africa’s next generation is bright.