Also important to note is that youths should see leadership beyond political agitation but broadly: in school, in business, academia, civil society, religion, trade unions and mass media. Secondly youths should not see leadership as centralised but as diffuse. You don’t have to be president to lead. You can lead as a prefect in a school, a supervisor at a call centre, a captain of a football team.
Most critically, youths should not seek leadership for leadership’s sake. Do the youths understand the political economy of postcolonial Africa? Do they have an agenda for the liberation and transformation of Africa? In my many unhappy encounters with many of them on social media, I get the sense that very many of them believe in a nanny state: that their fortunes are dependent on getting alms from the state. I am inclined to advise youths using the words of John F Kennedy: ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.
Secondly, in these unhappy encounters with youths on social media I get the sense that many are angry at many things. Now being angry is not a bad thing but righteous anger is rarely a basis for good public policies. The fact that you feel aggrieved, however genuinely, does not mean you have the right response to the problem. Often what sounds appealing politically is dysfunctional as policy.
The problem we face is that most struggles in Africa are over who should grab power and inherit the neo-colonial state believing that getting into power is the solution. Africa has had over 300 changes of government without much change in governance or its outcomes. The state we have today was designed to serve foreign interests. There is little domestic input into the policy making process. What is the response of our youths to this reality?
The bigger problem is that Africa elites, and most especially our youths, fight over concepts borrowed from Europe and North America. But functional institutions evolve organically from within societies to reflect historical and cultural realities. Copying and pasting European institutions onto the African social structure will not work.
Secondly, the transformation of Africa does not only require youths getting into power. Rather it requires that those in power, regardless of their age, possess the right values, believe in the appropriate policies and make alliances with transformational social forces. Many youths are inclined to hate entrepreneurs yet only private capital can help our nations build the prosperity we seek and crave.
What is the guiding ideology of our youths who are seeking power? Does this ideology seek to liberate Africa from foreign interference and transform our nations from backward peasant economies to modern industrial societies? We can take a leaf from the youths excited by Bobi Wine in his struggle against Museveni. What is the ideology of People Power? What are the treasured values of those who support it? And which social forces are they allied to?
Youths in East Africa need to avoid the temptation to support individuals but to support values, policies and the right social alliances. For instance, youths do not need to wear opposition to a particular leader as an identity. If a leader acts against your values and preferred policies, oppose him and when he upholds them defend him.