Written by Nhongo Solo
A poignant qoute by Saint Augustine of Hippo that reads: ‘The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page’ made me realise that the opportunity to go to Addis Ababa to attend the African Union Summit was not just a trip to see different landscapes, but a great opportunity to get to know my beloved continent – Africa . It not only opened my eyes and my mind, but also gave me a perspective. It expanded my knowledge. One of my highlight was the charming energy one gets from African people.
I must confess that as an African youth, I didnt take the African Union seriously. I had always thought of it as just a talk shop for grown ups. However, my experience at the AU Summit left me believing that this platform for grown ups – and very few young people – is progressive and very necessary for the development of our continent.
Granted, the progress of what is discussed and deliberated inside the assembly is not as quick as I would like, but there is movement. Co-incidentally this year’s theme of “winning the fight against corruption” is something that we debate a lot as South Africans. At first I was concerned about what my home country would contribute to this important topic. But as discussions continued, I realised that topic was not chosen to embarrass South Africa, but that it affects Africa in general with implications across the continent.
Seating inside the Assembly amongst intellectuals while discussing policies with eloquence, I had goose bumps and also felt like one of them. With that said, I realised that no matter how smart a leader is, transparency and integrity are key virtues.
I realised that development efforts made by some of our neighbours are often let down by conflicts, which are still alarming and should be rooted out at all cost. I was encouraged to hear of the efforts by African nations to help their neighbours who are grappling with humanitarian issues such as poverty resulting from conflict.
I was also shocked to learn that there are still Africans who continue to oppress their neighbours using the very same methods that were employed by colonialists. The representative from Sahawari Republic blamed humanitarian issues such as the increase of refugees on occupation and oppression by other African nations and called on all Africans to realise an Africa that is a united force. That had me thinking of powerful words once uttered by freedom revolutionary and author, Steve Biko that said: ” We should alter the belief that one kind of a man is better than another kind of a man. In so doing, we will bestow upon us God’s greatest gift to man. A more human face’.
Attending the two sessions for Heads of State and hear them take some unpopular decisions and support them was exciting for me. Looking at elderly gentlemen who lead our countries and the continent as collective, I was worried about the absence of young people and women in their midst.
For great policies like Agenda2063 to be realised, African youth and women can no longer be on the sidelines, they need to be right in there and also play a meaningful role in the development of our Africa. While the Youth Charter is a step in the right direction and encouraging, a lot more needs to be done to involve other voices towards speeding up the realisation of Agenda 2063 towards the Africa that we all want.
Looking back, I feel priviledged to have been nominated by the African Union Foundation to have this incredible experience. I am honoured that the Foundation deemed it fit to harness the power, progress and innovation of young people and I urge more organisations to do the same for the sake of our continent.
Nhongo Solo is the founder and director of Abatsha Force Of Change, a youth empowerment organisation. Solo attended her first African Union Summit as a guest of the African Union Foundation.