This was the theme for the SADC SAYoF 5th Youth Forum in Gaborone Botswana 25-27 July 2023. What a powerful theme and I am honoured to be one of the speakers there.

It’s actually noteworthy that the entire African youths are in full support of the African Continental Free Trade Area’s (AfCFTA) thrust of creating a single market for African products and services in the Africa and boost its trade position globally. 

When I think of Africa, our beloved continent my heart bleeds. We’re a very rich continent in terms of natural endowments and this is on record and an indisputable fact. As we seek to accelerate regional integration in Africa, let’s do so with open eyes, hearts and minds of recognition. Recognising that we’re sitting and standing on what has the capacity to make us a super rich continent and yet it’s not showing for now.

What’s required for all African countries to to deliberately develop a positive attitude towards what we have and have a genuine appreciation of the same. 

Resource Base Appreciation (RBA)

Before we attempt to integrate, let’s appreciate our endowments. This appreciation I am taking about goes beyond knowing the vast mineral and biodiversity that you have as a country to actually tapping into them for the betterment of our societies. Let’s develop some form of appreciative intelligence, that is the ability to see the mighty oak tree in acorn.

Most African countries are on record exporting the huge amounts of their diamonds, gold and other precious stones to countries which has capacity to process these into finished products. These countries are so much awake to the appreciative intelligence concept and have mastered the art of adding value even to what they don’t own. As long as there are some countries plain and blank to this call, their processing factories remain powered and busy.

Many thanks to recent developments in Ghana and Nigeria where they started appreciating that which they have by giving it value. These two countries are now able to convert their Bamboo trees into toothpicks and other by-products otherwise we would have remained importing such simple stuff as tooth picks. 

Our excellent Human Resources are doing exploits in other continents. We’re happy that they are shining there in different industries as captains and engineers but why can’t we also create that environment this side. Armed with the material resources, the able and experienced human capital, what’s left is the ability to configure these into unique products and services for our continent which I know we can, the entrepreneurship muscle. 

Maybe we’re selling these precious raw materials to get start up capital for bigger value addition and benefiation projects, but up to now we haven’t raised enough for a toothpick manufacturing plant, for the best garment manufacturing plant for the suites that we’re so proud and happy in as imported. Don’t we have institutions that are training textile technology? Our mindset and perception must change.

Let’s all answer to the appreciative intelligence call and activate our latent potential as Africa countries.

Accelerating regional integration 

The major driver for this must be the overwhelming internal productivity of each African nation. Having uniquely and innovatively produced more that you can locally consume, then you can trade the surplus. But often times we’re busy looking outward when the solution is inward. Let’s maximise on what we have and have the power to engage our regional member states.

If we are inefficient at national level, integration will just have an inefficiency multiplier effect and perpetuate our inadequacies. We will collectively become a bigger inefficient lot as a continent.

At this point I may pause a question. Are we ready as a country to integrate?

Regional integration is the foundational step to the realisation of the full benefits of our Africaness. Let’s support it from an understanding and equipped position in order to derive full benefits from it. What is it that you want to exchange with with your neighbouring country?

Are you aware that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is the world’s largest free trade area bringing together the 55 countries of the African Union (AU) and eight (8) Regional Economic Communities (RECs) to create a single market for the continent. The question is have we started as African countries to fully utilise this market of ours?

Youth participation in African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)

There are basically three important aspects that I want to share on youth participation in AfCFTA, which are, will power, drive and support.

Do our youth know that AfCFTA is expected to expand the size of Africa’s economy to US$29 trillion by 2050. And the question is how much of the US$29 trillion do you want to contribute as youths?

Will power

In everything that you see done, the first pillar to doing it is will power. Do you really want to do it. Are you pushed internally to contribute and participate? This part gives you the urge to do certain things but it’s not good enough.

Youths have attended conferences and seminars countless times the same manner they have planned and strategised but little was done if any. I think they are copying from their elders. We come up with logical and speaking position papers as African leaders but actualising these is always futile. This takes me to my next posit of DRIVE.

Drive (Execution)

The distance between a plan and a project is called execution. What most youths do contradicts the natural order of things. Youths are supposed to be hyper active and curious. Wanting to be part of almost everything that happens to learn and have a deeper understanding of how things work and yet youths of today take the back seat rather.

All you see happening anywhere it’s because someone has chosen to do it without which nothings happens. If you don’t see anything moving, it then means you’re the one who must make the moment.

Let’s take up the leading role as youth. The only hindrance to this is in our minds and how we perceive things. It is in your youthful stage that you have to accomplish more. Start that industry, manufacture and export to other counties. You need to unlock the creative genius in you for the benefit of human kind.

I encourage youth to be enterprising and eventually graduate to become entrepreneurs of note. Let’s not only participate so ideas, let’s take our products and service to that African market.

Conclusion

Let’s continue to love our continent by showing it that we care. Depriving it of its covering shipping it to other continents for further processing is never good for it and for us. Let’s develop appreciative intelligence and make the best out of what we have. Constructive and transformational engagement among countries is important as we seek to achieve one African agenda. Youths there is no any tomorrow for you to wake up. Stay alert and maximise your efforts now through involvement and active participation in all that matters in the success equation of Africa.