Africa’s millennial youth has often been accused of being an entitled generation that cannot compare to generation X’s militant and radical approach; however, it must be acknowledged that each generation has different approaches to tackle their realities.

The current African youth has a, generally, unanimous voice on the dire need to shape the continent. This voice, now amplified and globalised, engages broadly within countries and cross-border on various platforms especially the internet. Siyanda Mohutsiwa is one such young voice, encouraging conversations around the concept of Pan Africanism.

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At a panel discussion on “Satire in Africa”, at Re:Publica in Berlin

Siyanda, 22, identifies herself as being Pan-African and has taken her voice to social media to engage with Africa and beyond.  She describes Pan-Africanism as an extension of the ancient African tradition of Botho (or Ubuntu). “It is a philosophy that demands that its followers live in compassion with humanity.” She admits it is not an easy journey, but all Africans have the capacity to behave with great empathy to fellow Africans. Her dream is to encourage all Africans to embrace the notion of being Pan-African.

Her experience with writing for publications like Mail & Guardian, and her engagement on social media made her realise that media platforms can be a tool to promote Pan Africanism. She decided to use her social media presence to drive conversations about, and among Africans. “I wanted desperately to be heard in a world that I recognised would go on without my input. I began to connect with so many amazing and truly inspiring people across the continent and world,” she says.

In 2015 she pioneered the hashtag #IfAfricaWasAbar (among others) which had an intriguing reception on twitter amongst Africans, who, using that hashtag, engaged and united in one conversation across the continent. This activity received attention from international media outlets such as the BBC, CNN, Buzzfeed etc.  “I leapt online and shouted into the abyss. The abyss shouted back… It is incredible what a single tweet can do.”  She has since been invited to do a TED Talk and other forums to discuss how the youth of Africa is uniting and shaping the continent through the internet. Her aim is to create a lasting intellectual movement. Or at least something that inspires greater, world-changing movements that create a world we can all be proud of.

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At the TED Talk 2016 conference in Vancouver,Canada

Although Pan-Africanism is not a new concept, it has however over the years evolved, from a politically motivated stance to a more culturally and socially fueled ideology. Siyanda believes that as Pan-Africanism is rooted on Botho (uBuntu), it is a philosophy that is vital, especially amongst young people, who seem gravely isolated from one another. She strongly believes that African youth, much like her, should unapologetically revel in their “Africanness”.

Africa’s 54 countries all have different ways of contributing to the African narrative. When quizzed on her general observation of how Batswana youth contribute to this narrative she says, “Batswana are a particularly sophisticated bunch and this tends to be underplayed in media. If you look online, the commentary people generate on important news pieces is often insightful and deeply engaging – sometimes with some humor.”

Like a significant number of other African youth, Batswana youth are exhausted with the status quo. “Young Batswana are fed up and are inspired to take our country to the next level.” She believes Botswana youth are invested in the future of the country. She does however find it troubling that they mainly engage in South African conversations than they do with other countries such as Zimbabwe despite Botswana being deeply affected by what is happening there. “We could benefit a lot from knowing and caring about what happens in our region and indeed the continent.”

Post-colonial Africa is in turmoil; issues of unemployment, poverty, poor health care, poor education system, pseudo democracy and poor leadership, xenophobic violence, civil wars etc.  Change comes when there is collectiveness amongst a people. The youth are active agents of their own destiny, and the pervasive lack of intergenerational unity and naïve attitudes are weighing most societies down. Siyanda says that we are inheriting an Africa that has a lot of structural problems but she has faith that the youth have the energy to tackle these issues head on.

While trying to effect change, Africa’s youth suffers from the hand of ageism and patriarchal socialization. They sometimes have to whisper their concerns with fear that the elders will not agree and will not allow. Siyanda believes that the youth’s voice have the capacity, right and capability to stand its ground for the greater good, she herself will not be muffled by anyone as she is here to share her views.

She also noted one of the key problems that may pose a challenge and to some extent, self-sabotage, by the youth on their own efforts, “I wish this zeal for a better tomorrow could extend a bit more beyond materialism. I see and hear so much about the acquisition of things and it really bothers me. This of course, is a global problem.”

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Photo Credits: VPRO Broadcasting, Netherlands

There will always be challenges that will need to be overcome by African youth in reshaping the existing narrative. The future of Africa is in the youth’s voices, and it is quite revolutionary to witness young people in Africa espouse concepts of African unity and identity. The internet has played a key role in driving this unity and awareness.  The spirit of pan- Africanism is a baton that has been passed to the millennial to run their own race in their own way. What legacy will this digital generation pass on to the next?

By: Ronell Rantshime