Mélio Tinga, 2021 Blog4Dev winner from Mozambique.
This is one of 38 winning blogs from the 2021 Blog4Dev competition, the World Bank Africa annual writing contest, inviting young people to weigh in on a topic critical to their country’s economic development. Blog4Dev winners responded to the question: How can young people work with their governments and civil society organizations to respond to the impact of COVID-19 and build a stronger post-pandemic economic and social system?
Africa is the world’s youngest continent—the average age of its roughly 1.3 billion inhabitants is 18 years, and in the Sub-Saharan region about 40% of the population is under 15. This fact is undoubtedly one of the greatest promises for the future of the continent and of Africans themselves. A predominantly young population means youth have a responsibility for the future, and the task of putting positive change into practice and contributing to post-pandemic reconstruction is also in their hands.
The most important issue in dealing with the negative impact of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic in Africa is mostly about working as a system. Each actor must fulfill his or her role effectively, to achieve meaningful results and enable us to rise quickly from the aftermath of the greatest global challenge we face today—the coronavirus. Getting back on our feet after the struggle will require greater awareness, good sense, and involvement of young people in actions with their governments; but also in the initiatives of civil society organizations and others created by them. Governments will need to make pragmatic, thoughtful, and flexible decisions for the rapid recovery and continued growth of their nations, mindful that youth are the majority and have an essential role to play in the success of the struggle we are engaged in.
Last November (2020) Mozambique’s Ministry of Health released a report showing that the country’s pandemic lethality rate is the lowest in the Southern African Development Community (SADC)—just 1%, compared to a continent-wide average rate of 2.4%. Meanwhile, the effects of the social and economic devastation continue to wane; but it will take a long time before things get back to normal. As can be imagined, the economies of Mozambique and of the African continent as a whole are mostly driven by young people, whose responsibility is the key to building a strong, promising, and prosperous continent.
Young people can work with their governments and civil society organizations to address the impact of COVID-19 and build a more robust post-pandemic social and economic system, for example, through:
- Entrepreneurship to get Africa back on its feet: Entrepreneurship means that a young person detects a real need and sees it as an opportunity. While working to solve the problem, he/she helps the country progress socially and economically to build a more resilient social and economic system through job creation and problem solving.
- Trusting in technological innovation: Access to technological resources is burgeoning in Mozambique and throughout Africa. The Internet, smart machines, and futuristic gadgets seem to represent an irreversible course. Post-COVID-19 reconstruction means seeking technological solutions to support governments and organizations to inform, educate, and create other types of initiative that can help speed up the reconstruction of Africa’s social and economic system. The mastery of technological innovations mostly depends on youth. Flexibility, both in young people and in the technology itself, form the partnership needed to strengthen and quickly rebuild the countries.
- Becoming the leading actors: While the government implements policies, young people, in partnership with civil society organizations, need to participate as the leading actors. We need fearless young people who lead processes and actions, with the mindset and strength to generate change.
- Acting as intermediaries: Young people have an additional responsibility to help the most vulnerable regions—in terms of information, but also in terms of transformative, innovative, and profitable initiatives. If young people are the majority, then they can do much more than what is currently delegated to them. They need to be proactive, to take the lead in initiatives that are important for meeting the challenges posed by the pandemic, in all sectors.
The future is in our hands. We need to break out from enclosed spaces, pool our efforts, support our governments, in partnership with civil society organizations, help our communities, and connect with other young people. We need to be the key players and harness our knowledge to overcome the damage caused by the greatest pandemic in recent history. We are the majority, so it is up to us to decide what future we want for the African continent.
Mélio Tinga is the 2021 Blog4Dev winner from Mozambique. See the full list of 2021 Blog4Dev winners here, and read their blog posts.