Discussion presented at the Crossing Borders Youth Group International on February 2, 2011 in Nairobi.

As the wise man said:

If you’re thinking about a year ahead, plant seeds;

If you are thinking ten years, plant trees. But if you think a hundred years ahead, educate the young, the young.

Therefore, if anyone cares about the future of any country or community, they should pay great attention to the development, education and health of young people and train and prepare them for positions of responsibility and leadership at the earliest opportunity. Is this the ease in Africa and how does it compare to Europe, Asia and the US? In the past, everything that went wrong was attributed by society to God. ‘Today, outside of natural events like the floods in Australia, everything that goes wrong is blamed on leadership.

Who then is a leader??

In school-age fiction, it’s easy: A leader is someone with a six-foot-six-inch tail, well built, with thick blond hair and steady, sharp eyes. This, however, quickly proves to be an unreliable criterion. Since leadership is relative, it is in the leader’s relationship to his group that we look for signs of leadership.

The leader is a person and leadership is the exercise of the role of leader. The role of leadership is fundamental for all animals, including humans. Leadership is generally defined as the ability to influence a group to accomplish set goals or tasks, such as getting to Kenya from Denmark and back. The leader’s thinking is guided by the mission (achievement of goals), the safety and well-being of the team or group members, and ultimately personal interest such as fame or ambition for material gain.

Qualities of the successful leader

Why is one able to influence a group of people, small or large? It depends on the source of the influence. It could be raw fear of harm, like a thief’s gun. It could be the need for individual or group survival and the need to win and achieve group goals. Thus, the leader can evolve and for the sake of the task at hand and the welfare of the group and its unit, the group assigns one of their number who is better qualified for the leadership position. Therefore, the qualities of a successful leader are (1) Competence for the task at hand. (2): ability to listen – social skills (3) personal energy, passion for responsibilities and character – if we can’t lead ourselves, we can’t lead anyone else – we influence people because people see us as we were on higher ground – “we have been to the mountain before them”.

Greater chances for young people to become leaders at the first opportunity.

First of all, the young people who obtain leadership positions are a function of the family environment, the personal impulse, the social and national environment. These factors can be supportive, encouraging and motivating or inhibiting and even oppressive to the emergence of young people’s development. The examples are in Asia and Africa where the education of young people; girls in particular are being viciously targeted for unfounded reasons.

Second is the political and social environment. In the African context of Zimbabwe, Egypt (note the revolution there), Libya, Ethiopia, Uganda, as opposed to the UK, US or even Singapore or India, age and social media are important qualifications for senior positions from the public or private sector. Most African leaders die in office and await a state funeral! The same is true even in the private sector and universities. It is rare in African universities to find people under the age of 30 holding faculty positions. These have created “standing water” effects. Social and economic environment: suffocating, bad smell, full of mosquitoes and reptiles. There must be flow of leadership, moderate turnover to harness the energy, creativity and passion of our youth. We need the older generation for their wisdom, networks, influence, experience and wealth, but they must help the young grow so that “Africa does not disappear from the face of the earth or become a thriving swarm of corruption and decadence.

In order to increase the chances of young people entering leadership positions at the earliest opportunity anywhere for the purpose of “active citizens, effective states and a better changed developed world and overcome the limiting barriers in our way, we must observe and practice the Next: –

  1. Personal discipline, care, efficiency – energy: success comes after hard work.
  2. The discipline to have personal goals and achieve them. The discipline of having the best friends, adhering to a good healthy lifestyle (no drugs and association with criminals). The discipline of being ambitious, caring for parents, God-fearing, and working hard. The only place success comes before work is in the English dictionary.
  3. Taking responsibility for one’s actions

99% of all personal failures come from people who are in the habit of making excuses; the weather, teachers, parents and governments. If you want to create the life of your dreams, you will have to take 100% responsibility for your life as you live it. Parents and communities have done their bit by putting young people in school, raising them and loving them. Therefore, we must have a positive attitude, work hard, have big dreams, and take responsibility for our lives.

  1. Self-belief Entrepreneurial attitude and passionate desire to excel -own DNA- and signature of success.

The world rewards hard work, not existence. A poet wrote of the man who said to the universe “sir, I exist” “yet,” the universe answered, “the fact has not created in me any sense of obligation.” There is no sense of obligation for the others help us like the young As the Americans say, “we must get up on our own” even if we are barefoot and without boots.

Believe we can achieve greatness and we sure will. “If others have done it, why not us?” Our attitude and mind must work for us instead of against us. The strong and passionate desire produces the multiplication of effort and hard work. One area that young people should target is the field of entrepreneurship. Today, since 1990- fall of the Berlin wall, what is happening is the revolution of entrepreneurship. The young, people in the 20-39 age range are richer than at any time in world history. The founder of Facebook is an example. In Africa, the trend is the same as in China and Russia. Young people who live in Europe, like those who live in Africa and elsewhere, must seek knowledge, but more than opportunities to undertake. It is the true gateway to financial freedom. Opportunities are common in South Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya and certainly in Europe, America and Asia and even in Australia.

We should establish links between European and American opportunities and African markets. Entrepreneurship helps people get out of survival, struggling to live towards a prosperous and prosperous lifestyle. Entrepreneurship and great leadership are the foundation of national development.

Contribution of youth to national development

What is development and the development triangle? Development for the purpose of this discussion is “to develop the real income potentialities of all areas of the people and the country by using investments to effect those changes and increase productive resources that promise to increase real income per person; this it raises people’s living standards and choices continuously based on the law of perpetual optimism of humanity: that children will have a better life than their parents.

The Development Triangle as shown below.

Young people must play their part and contribute to good governance, leadership of their respective societies and entrepreneurship as indicated in the diagram above.

Conclusion: Africa’s place of honor

The African continent is a continent of young people where 60% of the population is under 40 years of age. Young people are the future. Therefore, young people must thrive to access leadership and entrepreneurship in order to contribute to their own development and that of their countries and put “poverty in museums” to quote Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh. Young people must have self-discipline, take 100% of their own responsibilities and have strong self-confidence and overcome contextual barriers.

If we are to elevate our societies, young people should be on higher ground. We have to appreciate that the African people are not condemned by the laws of nature to be poor and always marginalized. Finally, Nelson Mandera told a youth gathering in February 2005: “Sometimes it’s up to the generation to be great. You can be that generation.” History admires the wise but elevates the brave. Young people should show courage, delay self-gratification, live a healthy and positive lifestyle, and contribute to their own prosperity and that of their community and country. Paraphrasing Chinua Achebe, when the moons of Africa shine (the young), even the cripples of the Continent become hungry for rides.

It is only then; Africa can be assured of a place of honor on the world stage. Begin leadership and self-discipline with yourselves on an individual level and the future of our communities will be assured of prosperity.

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