A Ugandan global youth ambassador and student of Harvard, Seguya Hillary Innocent Taylor, has told Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, directly in the face, during a Q&A session at an event at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Boston, United States of America, that citizens of the eastern African country were tired of their dictatorial leader, President Yoweri Museveni, and, thus, would love to exchange him for the Ghanaian leader.
After delivering a speech at the university on the theme: ‘Empowering the Youth, Africa’s Golden Future’, the audience was allowed to ask Mr Akufo-Addo questions.
This was Mr Seguya's prelude to his question, which got the Ghanaian leader a bit unsettled.
“Thank you so much His Excellency Nana for that wonderful pan-African speech. I’m very sure beyond doubt that our great ancestors Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela Madiba, … are very positive about what you’ve talked about. My name is Seguya Hillary Innocent Taylor. I am a Ugandan and I’m doing my master’s in international relations here at Harvard. I wish we could exchange you for our Ugandan president, Dictator Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, who has been in power for 33 years and we are telling him enough is enough”.
The Ghanaian leader, during his speech, had urged African leaders to use the enormous wealth the continent is endowed with to develop and empower their respective youth populations.
With Africa possessing the largest generation of young people in history, President Akufo-Addo indicated that: “I place great hope in their capacity to shape the future of Africa and make Africa the lion that it was meant to be.”
To this end, the President noted that Africa must develop a strategy to reap the demographic dividend that a youthful population offers, adding that “the population opportunity will not automatically guarantee us a future of growth and prosperity. Demographic dividends do not come automatically. They have to be earned.”
To realise the demographic dividend, African countries, he stressed, have to invest in the empowerment, education and employment of young people.
“No one needs to tell us that mass unemployment in Africa, especially among her youth, is a ticking time bomb. The so-called Arab Spring showed clearly that the lack of employment opportunities can undermine social cohesion and political stability. With between 10 and 12 million youths joining the labour market every year, Africa has to pay maximum attention to job creation,” he added.
With young people willing to risk everything to improve their circumstances, the President noted that increasing investment in young people is key, including promoting quality education that prepares them for a future of opportunities.
“That is why the Free Senior High School policy, instituted by my government two years ago, which is expanding dramatically, access to secondary school education for all of Ghana’s young people, is opening up greater and greater vistas of opportunities for Ghana’s young female population. Legislation is on its way to redefine basic education to encompass kindergarten up to the end of senior high school, and make it compulsory for all of Ghana’s children,” he said.
Describing the 21st century as the century of science and technology, the President noted that the mastery of digital technology by African youth must be the compelling challenge for them if, indeed, they are to survive in this competitive, technological environment.
Additionally, with several economies on the continent dependent on the production and export of raw materials, President Akufo-Addo noted that there is no way these economies can produce wealth and prosperity for their peoples, especially their youth, explaining that “it is time we were responsible for processing our own resources. It is time that we, in Africa, manage our resources well, to generate wealth for our populations.”
President Akufo-Addo also advocated the involvement of young people in decisions that affect them, explaining that Africa cannot talk about shaping the future without talking about the welfare and wellbeing of young people.
“It is important that Africa takes these ideas forward to harness the value of a youthful population, holding human rights, gender equality, development of human capital, and dignity at the centre of all our investments. Only by providing opportunities that open the future to all young people do we create a brighter future,” the President added.
While stressing that Africa does not have a DNA that dooms her to failure, Africans, the President added, can, like all the other peoples that have succeeded, make life meaningful and worth living for their own people.
“There is an abundance of dynamic, entrepreneurial talent on our continent struggling to express itself and take advantage of such conditions. We have to encourage this expression with full force and ensure that we can stand on our own feet, and make it impossible for the systematic looting and plundering of our human and material resources that have characterised much of our modern history, to continue. This is the significance of the concept of Ghana Beyond Aid, indeed, of Africa Beyond Aid,” President Akufo-Addo added.