Mandela Fellows: Pathway to Africa’s economic growth is inclusion

Mandela Washington Fellowship for young African leaders’ initiative has concluded a three-day regional conference in Ghana, with a call on African leaders to pursue inclusive financial, social and digital policies to quicken the continent’s development pace.

More than 160 fellows from 21 African nations met in the West African country’s capital city, Accra, to share best practices on fostering more sustainable and inclusive development that would see countries in the region transform into prosperous states and mitigate suffering.

“We are facing several issues, but instead of focusing on the issues we should focus on solutions, we are talking about inclusion, those people that are excluded we need to include them in financing,” Aurelie Adam Soule, a 2015 fellowship fellow from Benin told The Africa Report.

“For instance, on the financial aspect, there are people who do not have access to loans, to banks, we need to include them because development cannot be done by only few people we need everyone to develop Africa.”

Soule said rural communities and poor people without access to loans or connection to internet facilities or social services ought to be added to the continent’s development ladder and be assisted to initiate community projects and develop their own communities.

“The pathway to develop Africa is financial inclusion, digital inclusion – bringing technology to the people that are not connected today to the internet, social inclusion too, those are all aspects that need to be addressed to develop Africa and make it a brighter Africa.

“We do not need people to be coming from outside to develop us, development starts with us. In the next five to 10 years the Africa we want to see is the Africa where African people will be leading in developing our communities, the grassroots communities, and not only the urban areas.

“We need leaders who have vision for our countries. Leaders who can encourage us, the youth, to take leadership responsibilities without being afraid, we need peace, we need security.”

The chairperson of the fellowship’s West Africa advisory board, Victorian Kambe Sarr explained the importance of the conference, saying it afforded fellows the opportunity to receive tutorials in various fields and share development experiences, while having it in mind to return home to initiate local projects and programmes to improve living conditions of their people.

“Last year, in August, we were in Washington DC for a town hall meeting – the summit with President Barack Obama. The idea is not to let the fellows go back to home and just forget about it. We are here to connect and find ways to collaborate among us, and see how we can work on our different projects,” she said.

It is expected that the youth, after the conference, will continue collaborations and then feel more connected and united to come up with innovative ideas and solutions to help spur Africa’s development agenda, as Sarr said “that is what Africa needs, uniting and connecting”.

“It would have been better if they [Africa governments] had taken the lead before the US government organised this programme for us. I think, however, that they [Africa leaders] are trying to do more, talking to the youth and seeking new or better ways to address challenges facing young people in Africa,” she said.

If Africa were to develop at a faster pace, the fellows said, policies and programmes or projects ought to be locally tailored, innovative and inclusive, while considering youths as paramount in their decision-making process.

The conference provided the fellows with a huge platform to discuss solutions to address youth unemployment, democratic governance, Agenda 2063, and strategies for tackling emerging security threats in the region.

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