By PROFESSOR GEOFFREY LUNGWANGWA
THE Youth, namely that generation of 18-35 years can rightly be described in different ways:
-1) It is the Digital Technology generation; deeply rooted in cloud computing; artificial intelligence; robotics; internet of things and locked up in cyber space. This is the generation which is in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It is the information age generation which is born and raised in the age of the internet revolution.
– 2) It is a transformative generation because: it is highly informed. Being in the information age it can quickly acquire the latest information from anywhere, process it and disseminate it with ease to friends and the general public.
– 3) It is a highly interconnected or networked generation.
This generation through the digital technology tools is nationally, regionally, continentally and globally connected. Friendship and other social interactions and transactions are in the cyber space.
This is the Social Media generation which communicates even when in the same room through messages on WhatsApp, e-mail and other available channels.
Because it is highly preoccupied with messaging this generation is averse to ringing mobile phones. The Youth are the grandmasters of the Social Media.
– 4) It is a significant force generation in all dimensions. The Youth are the majority by any measure or count in any population.
The Youth, on average constitute a significant proportion of the Zambian population which according to the United Nations estimates now stands at 19 million.
Clearly the Youth are the majority of voters. If properly organised and coordinated they can determine who leads the country through the power of their vote.
Political campaigns are increasingly being aided by the digital technology revolution to which the Youth are masters.
The August 12, 2021 elections which took place in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic is a classic example of the power of digital technology as a campaign tool which galvanised support among the Youth.
-5) The Youth are a foundation of development. They have the energy, knowledge and skills to transform the resources of the country and bring about meaningful development for all.
The Youth think and feel that they have fresh ideas and ways of doing things that are economically more transformative than what the old generation are capable of doing.
– 6) The Youth are both the now and the future. They are both the present and the future leaders. The Youth have hopes and aspirations for a better future for themselves, their families and children. They have views and opinions about what Zambia should be.
To the Youth, the old generation is a stumbling block to economic prosperity which they can energetically bring about if given the opportunity to do so. To the Youth, what the old generation view as problems to prosperity are opportunities not clearly defined.
They want to bring fresh microscopic analysis for dissecting them and unravel opportunities for improving lives.
Taking all these descriptions of the Youth, it can rightfully be stated that they are a significant political force and power today. It is this realisation which made the African Union to think in terms of how to harness the demographic dividend of the Youth in all dimensions.
This must be followed judiciously in all African countries because the Youth are a critical force of both today and the future of the African continent.
Leaders that have come to this realisation are creating conducive environments for the Youth to effectively participate in the affairs of their countries in all sectors. Today’s Youth are the bridges which their children should use to cross into the Africa of tomorrow.
Being the most affected, the Youth want to see an end to the current vices in their country namely: poverty, unemployment; wanton exploitation of resources; corruption; discrimination on account of ethnicity, gender, religion or location; political intolerance; violence and lawlessness; political dictatorship; ethnic hegemony and disunity. This political trajectory is anathema to the Youth.
Listening to what the Youth want concerning the direction that their country should take is an extremely important necessity for peace and stability in the nation.
The Youth want to see a new social, political and economic order in the country which is rooted in: unity, peace and security, scientific and technological advancement, economic prosperity and employment opportunities, democracy, equal opportunities for all, equity, social justice and human rights.
To the Youth, the current political order is a dying one and must give rise to a new order that is driven primarily by them. What the Youth want is to be effective actors in creating this change of a new social, economic and political order. They want to occupy the front seats of engineers of this change.
African leaders must be aware of this and prepare the grounds for the new breed of Youthful leadership that can propel the continent to greater heights in all dimensions of development.
This is the age of the Youth to BUILD THEIR NATIONS.
Political leaders that neglect the power of the Youth in determining the political direction of their countries are heading for their embarrassing downfall through the ballot box.
This is happening in most African countries. The August 12, elections in Zambia where the Youth turned out in big numbers to vote for leaders of their choice and resulting in change of government is a case in point.
The reality of our time is that the Youth have risen and continue to rise to take their rightful positions in the leadership of their country. Creation of environments in which the Youth are key stakeholders in determining the affairs of their nation is an imperative necessity.
The older generation will increasingly continue to play the role of supporting the Youth. Development of a mindset in which Youth power has to unfold is what the older generation has to adopt.
Inclusivity in all dimensions of the nation’s affairs is what the Youth expect and want to see. The new dictum from the Youth is that “DON’T DO THINGS FOR US BUT LET US DO THEM TOGETHER.”
In other words, the thinking and voices of the Youth must be seen and heard in all aspects of the society’s life. This is the new order or change which the Youth want to see being created in the country not for them but with them and by them.
The rising power of the Youth requires a strong and effective research environment to investigate and capture what the Youth want, how they are doing what they want to achieve, the problems that they face and the possible solutions which they think should be undertaken.
Equally, education and training institutions have to be reformed to pave way for the new knowledge, skills, ways of learning and attitudes which are relevant to the needs and aspirations of the Youth.
In this era of digital technology, education needs a complete overhaul in such areas as: what is being taught, the methods of teaching and learning, who is teaching what, the goals to which education and training are directed, the assessment of learners and the outcome of the education and training process.
Heavy investment in digital technology to meet the transformative aspirations of the Youth should be at the centre of the power of the Youth revolution. Access to the internet and the technology that ushers one into the cyber space should not only be easy but affordable to all the Youth wherever they are.
Knowledge, skills and digital technology are the key effective catalysts of Youth empowerment for a changing social, economic and political order in which the Youth are the change movers and drivers.