Covid-19 threatened to separate humanity but cloud-based technologies have brought us closer than at any other time before in our lives. The cloud technology is uniting Africa too.
This unity was demonstrated last week at the virtual launch of Lizz Ntonjira’s new book, #YOUTHCAN. More than one thousand people from 18 African countries joined the event through Zoom, YouTube and Facebook.
Ms Ntonjira, a former business reporter with NTV, engaged with a mostly youth panel, including Nigerian Eno Essien, the CEO of Rheytrak; South African Busisiwe Mahlangu, the author of Surviving Loss and a social activist; South Sudanese Nhial Deng, the head of the Refugee Peace Ambassadors; and Ugandan Nataliey Bitature, the co-founder of Musana Carts. The author represented Kenya.
The topics of discussion were generated from the book’s 50 stories told from 22 African countries narrated by 29 women and 21 men. The countries represented were Angola, Burundi, Cape Verde, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Guinea Conakry, The Gambia, Kenya, Liberia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Each chapter generated issues relating to what African Union (AU) policies should do to either create jobs or an enabling environment for wealth creation. The book, which largely focuses on the future, has topics ranging from service to the people, innovating for the future, entrepreneurship, media & arts, sports, research & development as well as going green.
There are 12 chapters, each focusing on sectors that will impact people’s livelihoods in the days to come. Each chapter starts with a thought leader/expert in the respective sector writing an inspiring letter to the younger generation followed by three features of outstanding youth chronicles from various countries in Africa.
The objective of this anthology was to inspire the youth through the lens and stories of other youth in the front line advocating change and making things happens. It is also a great resource for the older generation — particularly in the private, public and development sectors that often have a negatively skewed perception of the youth — to experience that all is not lost for the African youth.
The writers brought together by Ms Ntonjira have never met physically. They all met on social media and agreed to contribute ideas that will have an impact in Africa. The outcome of their virtual engagements has powerfully demonstrated that youth when empowered, indeed can contribute to all sectors of the economy with a passionate desire to be catalysts for both individual and national development.
This technology-assisted youth engagement follows recent highly successful four-part webinar series on transforming agriculture in Africa through digitalisation by the African Development Bank and the Food and Agricultural Organization. With more than 500 participants, the webinar series reached more people at a more intimate engagement than any other form of conference could achieve.
In the era of social distancing, new tools that facilitate virtual connections are emerging and will bring especially the continent of Africa closer than the initiators of pan-Africanism ever imagined. I have watched youth on Discord (a digital distribution platform designed for creating communities ranging from gamers to education and businesses) chatting with peers in different countries and developing comradeship as though they were just in the neighbourhood.
With Netflix Party (a Google Chrome extension) families join friends in far-flung areas to watch television shows and make comments as though they were in the same room. This concept of watching party is a streaming trend started to deal with the social distancing initiative to defeat coronavirus but is taking a life of its own with so many other platforms adopting the technology.
In my view, we now have the what we can effectively use to unite the people of Africa.