African youth aren’t connected. An average African child can tell you so much about the West than the child knows about other African countries. In Nigeria for example as an International Humanitarian Law Student, I bet I can tell you a lot more about the genocide in Yugoslavia than I can about the Biafran civil war that took place right here in Nigeria. One of the arguments is that Africans we do not tell our stories well or that the Western has way more literature than we do and of course more content on the internet which is the major media of passing information today.
Africans need to tell more stories to tell more African stories. Most of my recent contentions has been with the fact that there is barely any African representation when it comes to media for kids, I mean the cartoons and kids show. When I speak of African, I do not speak of the experiences and the contexts of the lives of African American people living outside the continent but, Africa. Content that represents the everyday experiences of family and social life in African countries. I would not begin to speak of representation in Hollywood. I am a big Marvel fan, its usually amusing and sometimes more than slightly annoying and disturbing to me the way Africa is usually portrayed in the movies particularly the accents. I live in Nigeria and I certainly know that I do not speak in that manner.
The danger of the single story has often been spoken about so I wouldn’t speak much of in this piece, perhaps in a later one. There are single stories about Africa. A continent full of exotic animals and on the other hand, poverty porn (starving, hungry children). The truth is that this isn’t completely untrue but I believe it is important to share the full story of Africa. The interesting thing is that Africans, African youth have this single-story perspective, it isn’t only the world that has this single-story but Africans do too.
As a young person living in Africa, my greatest travel fantasies are situated in Europe, North America and Asia. I remember being twelve years old and sharing the fantasy of what Christmas with snow and a Christmas tree would be like. I remembered praying earnestly that God would bring it to pass, and when I didn’t get that Christmas I dreamed of in America. I remembered how disappointed I was. Very few African dreams of visiting other African Countries and connecting with other Africans across the continent. The few fantasies of travel on the continent are those of exotic island destinations like Seychelles. I speak more about visiting the African countries for what they are and not their exotic holiday destinations.
The conversations about Africa rising are prominent and urgent. One way we can achieve this is by binding together and looking beyond the rhetoric that binds us but rather the common history, experiences and challenges that we face. We need to look more at what binds us and what our collective aspirations are. The African Union hasn’t succeeded so much in truly connecting us, there is so much that has been said about pan-Africanism but I believe the current model we operate is not working, we have worked at developing a political pan-Africanism that hasn’t worked. As Siyanda Mohutsiwa recommended in her Ted talk what we need is social pan-Africanism. One of the key indicators that this isn’t working is asking an average young African the question, ‘what is Pan-Africanism?’ The responses that you would receive would floor you. People do not know or understand what Pan-Africanism is. What they do know is that the states that they live in aren’t working and that they would like to build a better life for themselves and their families. This sums up the aspirations of the Pan-Africanist to build a continent that is peaceful, prosperous and healthy. A place where every single person that fully actualize their potential. These aspirations coincide.
There is much reason why it has been unsuccessful but one of the reasons that I can say is that Pan-Africanism and all overall the African Agenda has been communicated very poorly and without any deliberateness. This is something that needs to change.
There are so many ways to connect African Youth, one of the ways that people have made their connections is through social media. I wondered if there was a social media app where I could find other Africans and connect. There are a couple of Facebook groups but so far, it’s not effective it often becomes overridden with spam messages. If you know of anyone kindly share in the comments section.
Another way is bridging the linguistic barriers. In West Africa, there are three official languages spoken majorly; English, French and Portuguese. Although Lagos Nigeria is only a few kilometres away from Cotonou, Benin Republic, what most Nigerians know about the Benin Republic is that it is a place Nigeria imports rice from. This is in part is majorly attributable to the linguistic barriers. Nigeria speaks English and Benin Republic speaks French.
There is a need on the side of governments and in partnership with the tourism industry to encourage intra-African travel. This needs to be a deliberate drive to encourage Africans to see another side of Africa and see what we share in common.
Can we talk about Air travel fares within Africa? They are expensive! There is a need to make airline travel within Africa more competitive and thereby lower prices. Most African countries have struggling state-run (and budding private) airline companies so this might be the explanation. Airline travel within Africa is allegedly 200% much more expensive than travelling within Europe. I am certain we would get more excited about travelling if it cost less.