OPOLOT NICHOLAS L’AKWANG
Most recently, I participated at the Kampala Geopolitics Conference which was hosted at Makerere University. One of my major takeaways from this significant event was how we can harness Africa’s potential through fronting its youth as a major component to drive its transformation.
An analogy was given illustrating the success of the “Black Panther” movie which inspired many youth on how to rethink Africa’s future through fiction and arts.
Much is said about this great award-winning movie which depicts the futuristic kingdom of Wakanda, situated in Africa.
King Tchalla “Chadwick Boseman” who stars in this movie is fronted as an African visionary who leads his people to prosperity through technological innovation.
In as much as this is based on fictional characters, the Black Panther phenomenon reflects how the fourth industrial revolution has disrupted Africa’s economies and way of life. Technology has become part and parcel of how narratives about Africa are being re-shaped.
My question is: How do we scale up the levels of innovation on the continent? How do we support, enable and mentor the youth as Africa’s “vibranium”, (Wakanda’s biggest resource)? Uganda, for instance, has seen a phenomenal increase in innovation hubs which mentor young disruptive technologists.
However, many technologies we are using in Uganda have been adopted from foreign countries with little or no adaptation to our context here and with little regard for the needs of Ugandans. Black Panther shows that we can build something for Africa, by Africans.
We need more Ugandans actively working on development of home-grown technology solutions, on artificial intelligence from a local perspective. At a higher level, disruptive technology will bridge the gap between citizen and governments by enhancing development initiatives, improving communication, building smarter cities and making governments more accountable.
We need to see more of this success reciprocated in many parts of the country, which remains uncovered due to lack of Internet penetration, shortage of IT resources to enable creativity from underserved rural areas.
Our Government and civil society in coalition with the private sector must champion the development of ICT in the country. This is premised on the fact that investing in the youth means investing in the future. Currently, this does not seem to be consistently reflected in political decision-making and policy design.
A key factor for encouraging innovation in the country lies in the ability to provide opportunities to the youth so that they can maximize their potential.
How can we engage,the youth to participate in creating solutions to Uganda’s development challenges? How can decision-making be made more inclusive to youth agency? How can we ensure that policies are more reflective of the needs and aspirations of the younger generation?
Addressing these concerns helps to increase youth ownership in Africa’s development scene. Our leaders and institutions must therefore play a critical role in ensuring that the region’s youth are equipped with the skills, knowledge, and attitudes that prepare them to become leaders and innovators of the future generation.
Young people can become agents of change, act as catalysts and progressively change the status quo of society. It is essential that all leaders embrace and enable young people to succeed and show them how they can impact the future.
Just as entrepreneurs need mentors to help them develop an idea into a business, our leaders must engage with young people like myself on issues if we want an engaged, active generation of innovators.
Mentorship goes an extra mile in empowering young people to contribute positively to their own development and the economic development of their local communities.